Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Didi Wood

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story September 18, 2017

This is my favorite kind of flash—where I’m dumped completely and utterly in a scene and compelled forward with the urgency and force of the moment. It’s so well written and crisp. It just grabs you immediately. Was it one that came out in a burst, or did that crispness happen after lots of revision?

Thank you! I tend to edit as I write, which makes drafting slow but results in polished first drafts (and many more stories strangled before they even hit the page, sadly). I wrote “Husking” in one sitting during Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash workshop, in response to a “ten words” prompt; while my overactive inner editor was busy trying to fit in all the words, this story with these people I’d never seen before slipped out. (I think all ten words remain in the story—can readers guess what they were?)

In that workshop were some of the most talented and generous writers I’ve ever encountered, and the quality of their work and comments had me paying closer attention than usual to my own language, rhythm, etc., and also to what should be left unsaid. There was some tweaking, of course, but the published version is pretty close to the first draft I shared in that group.

So what the heck happened with her and Kyle? 

You know, she hasn’t told me yet. Was he abusive? Married to someone else? Creeped out by her doll collection? Was her aversion to his mullet the last straw? I love that you’re thinking beyond the story. What do you think happened?

Oh, he was totally a serial killer.

We’ve never met in person, and yet I feel like we have this connection because of our mutual love of creepy dolls. Can you explain to the world why creepy dolls are so amazing?

I don’t know if it can be explained … people either get it or they think you’re really strange. I love how creepy dolls embody such contradictions—innocence and corruption, sweetness and darkness—there’s energy in that contrast.

One of my friends recalls her sister terrorizing her with a doll who had a dessicated fly rattling around inside its head. Just try to forget about that, now.

What else are you working on now? More flash? Something else?

Yes, more flash! I’m hoping prompts and peer pressure will help subdue my inner editor so I can write more more more. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between two novels, and I’d love to finish those and get them out of my head so there’s room for something new. I’ve also got some children’s poems and picture book drafts to polish and submit. I have a hard time with the business side of writing, the putting-out-there of one’s work and oneself … “Husking” is the first thing I’ve submitted anywhere in years, and SmokeLong was the first place I sent it, so thanks for choosing it! I should capitalize on that momentum … or something …

What book should I read to get me ready for Halloween?

You’ve probably read some of these, but here are a few that come to mind:

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (quietly terrifying and heartbreaking and just amazing)
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (don’t read about it first–better without spoilers)
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (more disturbing every time I read it)
  • Slade House by David Mitchell (wonderfully unsettling)

I’ve got The Haunted Looking Glass: Ghost Stories Chosen and Illustrated by Edward Gorey on my October pile.

About the Author:

Didi Wood’s stories appear in Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Cotton Xenomorph, Pidgeonholes, and other publications. She’s fond of the serial comma, board games, and creepy dolls. Often she is festooned with cats.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist:

Alex Hockett's work can be found at Unsplash.