Time for me to invite another writer to come and talk about their work. Following on from Douglas Thompson’s guest post last month, I’m pleased to invite another writer on the Impossible Spaces blog tour onto the site. Today it’s the turn of Tracy Fahey.
I first met Tracy at a conference on monsters and monstrosity that I organized in Manchester in 2012. At that event, she presented some of her academic work which (broadly speaking) falls under the category of ‘Gothic Studies’. I found Tracy’s paper at the conference to be really well-researched and engaging, and so was happy (though surprised – as I had no idea she wrote creatively as well) to see her submit a short story for an anthology I was editing.
Tracy’s story in Impossible Spaces is entitled ‘Looking for Wildgoose Lodge’, and it is a story about the past, about the way we tell stories, and about the way we listen to them and let them shape us. It is a haunting – yet beautiful – piece, and I’m very pleased to have been able to include it in the book. Someone asked Tracy at the launch party why her story was the last one in the collection – if I may, I would like to answer that: I chose ‘Looking for Wildgoose Lodge’ as the finale for Impossible Spaces because it is, at its heart, a story about endings. But it is a story about how an ending just makes us think about all that has come before, all that has led us to that point. Also, the last two sentences gave me goosebumps that didn’t go away for hours, and that seemed a pretty cool way to leave our readers.
Over to Tracy…
Looking for Wildgoose Lodge
My name is Tracy Fahey and I’m a short story addict.
I am also a Gothic researcher who writes about uncanny domestic space, I run an art collective, Gothicise, that re-imagines places, tells stories and makes myths, and I write stories about strange happenings based on odd thoughts, images and fragments of ideas. I’m obsessed with strange sites and stranger stories. For me, short stories are one of the most exquisite forms of writing. The challenge is severe – to create a world in miniature, to set the scene, to draw the characters, to achieve resolution. The great short story writers I admire – Saki, Angela Carter, Guy de Maupassant, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson – all do this beautifully and make it look effortless. Richard Matheson, damn him, can do it in the space of two pages. Read his grotesque little jewel of a story ‘Born of Man and Woman’ to see precisely how. Sometimes reading so much can actually be off-putting. “Why should I bother writing stories?” you wonder, dismally. “Edgar Allan Poe does it so much better than I ever could!” And perhaps he does. But that’s no reason to quit. For, quite apart from the imagination, we all have an exclusive archive available to us to dip into – our memories.
This story, ‘Looking for Wildgoose Lodge’, slid straight out of the memory vault onto the page. It is (almost) completely true. It’s based on a horrific real-life event, which has been documented in books on history and social history, and fictionalised by William Carleton in one of the great Irish Gothic short stories. It also is a hymn to my late, incomparable grandmother who was a cosy, jumper-knitting, cake-baking archetype of all things grandmotherly. However, she was also fascinated by dark stories, especially local folk tales, and re-told them to me with gusto, with a fine disregard for age-inappropriate content. She continued this interest throughout her life – even after she passed away, we found a scrapbook she’d been keeping on what she called ‘The End Times’, a kaleidoscope of cuttings linked to stories of imminent apocalypse and portents of doom.
That’s one part of the addiction. Dark stories.
The other is my own fascination with impossible spaces. From the cave of inky blackness under the bed, to a crooked alley in a strange town after sunset, to a half-glimpsed shadow flickering at the window of an empty house, the notion of a space where anything could and (and horribly might) happen continues to beguile me. In this story, the contrast between the terrifying drama that had played out in the Lodge and the pitiful handful of stones that remains led me to think about the significance of ruins – as I put it “what remains behind when the story has ended”.
I don’t have a ‘process’ or anything approaching a method when I write short stories (unless you can count endless cups of tea and a tendency to rearrange my bookshelves). Unlike my academic writing, which has to be strictly within the confines of footnotes and references, my creative writing is freedom, untrammelled except by the limits of my imagination. I basically keep a notebook and scribble ideas in it. Most are terrible. Some show promise. Even fewer are finally worked up into stories. That notebook goes everywhere – this year alone it’s been to Berlin, London, Hong Kong and around New Zealand. Travelling, with its ever-changing vistas, strange sights, smells, noises, makes me itch for my pen. ‘Looking for Wildgoose Lodge’ was conceived in Dublin airport, and the first draft was written on the plane to and from the Hobbit premiere in London.
I feel endlessly grateful to have these creative outputs, to make art, to write. The ideas for all my creative projects start on the blank page. I live for the giddy excitement of it all, making the first marks on the white page, the initial, tentative scribbles, and then the fierce flood of black ink as the story takes hold. Nothing else floods me with quite the same feeling of trembling euphoria. It’s compulsive.
My name is Tracy Fahey and I’m a short story addict.
For more information about the Impossible Spaces anthology, or to buy a copy, please visit the Hic Dragones website.