Charles Tan Interviews Will Ludwigsen

Will Ludwigsen’s collection In Search of and Others is a 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards nominee.

Charles Tan: How did you decide that “In Search Of” would the titular story for In Search Of and Others?

Will Ludwigsen: I don’t know too many other people for whom this is true in our modern mass-media age, but I was introduced to speculative “non-fiction” as a kid in the 70s before I discovered speculative fiction. Thanks to television shows like In Search Of and books by writers like Frank Edwards, I spent the first decade of my life genuinely concerned (and secretly pleased) that ghosts, vampires, witchcraft, demonic possessions, UFOs, and the Bermuda Triangle were all real things.

Almost everything I’ve written since addresses a little of my disappointment at learning they weren’t…and my desire to find or invent numinous things in the world.

When I wrote “In Search Of,” I didn’t realize it was a kind of distillation or mission statement for my entire fictive output: the weird things we believe about the big mysteries of existence are all really about the little mysteries inside us. Being wrong is really a kind of wish, and all of the stories in the collection are about people making those wishes and trying to make them true.

Charles Tan: What was your criteria in selecting the stories to be included in the collection and their order?

Will Ludwigsen: This probably undermines any illusions of artistry I ever projected, but the composition and ordering of stories for the collection was oddly subconscious. If I had anything in mind, it was a bell curve of length and feeling, lulling readers into longer dreams with shorter ones, giving them room to breathe.

The tiny stories between, things like “Mom in the Misted Lands,” were all actually written for my blog as challenges: I’d pick a public domain image, write for one hour, and post whatever I came up with. I had a pool of about forty of those to choose from, and I tried to pick the least literal ones, the ones with the quickest flash of strangeness showing above the surface.

What they all have in common, I suppose, is that they came to me in the post-Clarion period when I gave up on writing the kinds of stories that looked or sounded like stories “should.” Almost every story in that collection had a moment in its creation where I said something like, “Fuck it. I’ll tell it from the house’s point of view.”

Desperation and surrender…two surprisingly powerful tools.

Charles Tan: What’s the appeal of short stories for you?

Will Ludwigsen: When I was a kid, I loved jumping out from behind things to make my mother reel back, clutching her chest and yelling, “Ya gonna gimme a heart attack!” in her New York accent. Short stories are like that — quick blitzes of surprise and meaning that you drop on people and then run away.

There’s are probably many reasons that more people remember Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” than Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home (though both are great), but at least two of them are the story’s brevity and lack of answers.

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