Sure, this is actually the second story I’ve written that is directly [inspired by] Shirley, I think a lot of my work is overall encompassed by Shirley Jackson. There’s two stories, there’s this one and there’s one that came out in a magazine called Tin House, (it’ll be in my next book, it hasn’t been collected yet) called Blur, which came out in Tin House four or five years ago. The thing about Blur is that it’s based on, or in conversation with, a Shirley Jackson story called The Tooth. It’s great, it’s in The Lottery and Other Stories, her first collection, and it’s honestly my favourite in the collection, it’s a really good collection but that story’s my favourite. And it’s about a woman who is living in Upstate New York and she has an abscessed tooth, and her husband is putting her on a bus, loaded down with painkillers, to go to New York City to have the tooth extracted. She’s on this bus, super fucked up, kind of hallucinating, dreaming, high from the meds, in pain and there’s this man in a blue suit who keeps appearing to her and talking to her… so I wrote this short story called Blur. I wear glasses, without my glasses I literally can’t see anything, and I’ve always had this anxiety growing up about like… you know that scene in The Mummy where the guy loses his glasses? It was very traumatic for me as a child, the thought of not having one’s glasses is very scary. So I wrote this story. I was at a rest stop one day, I was driving somewhere really far, and I stopped to go to the bathroom, and I took my glasses off for a second to wash my face or something, and I thought, wouldn’t it be so terrible if my glasses just disappeared? I would be totally stuck here, I would be trapped here; which is kind of how my brain works, like what if this terrible thing happened… oh that’s a good idea for a story! [laughs] So I had this idea of what would happen if I lost my glasses, and then I had this idea of writing a short story. Then I was thinking of it and connected these two ideas; so it’s about a woman that goes to a rest stop, she’s on her way to visit, as it turns out, a pretty shitty girlfriend; she stops at a rest stop, she takes her glasses off to wash her face and loses her glasses and then this man appears, and is speaking to her and convincing her to walk with him down the highway. So that’s sort of the premise of the story. So anyway, it’s very explicit, if you read the two, you’d see that the two stories were talking to each other.
So this story was interesting, the one in the Shirley Jackson anthology, A Hundred Miles and a Mile, it’s another piece of a Shirley Jackson work that really echoes with me, which is this very famous scene in [The Haunting of] Hill House, where’s she’s at the Inn and the little girl won’t drink the milk because it doesn’t come in her ‘cup of stars’; it’s such a transcendently beautiful idea, and I kept thinking about what would happen if that little girl grew up, and had this faint, vague memory of this woman communing with her. Which she wouldn’t actually remember, Eleanor isn’t talking to her, they’re just having this shared understanding. I just like the idea of it breaking someone apart, the idea that this person gave them this instruction and they are trying to hold on to it, and trying to pass it on but not fully understanding it themselves. And connecting it in the case of this story, with a historically gay character; the character of that story [Eleanor] is queer, but it’s also not quite talked about in the way we talk about it now, so I guess you could call it fan fiction technically speaking! It is directly engaging with the story on that level. Again this is how I write, I get these notions or ideas, and I’m like ‘hmmm, I guess I’ll try that!’