Welcome to our new interview series, “Contributors’ Corner,” where we open the floor each week to one of our contributors to the journal. This week, we hear from Luke Wiget, whose story “An Instrument” appears in HFR 3.3.
Luke Wiget is a writer and musician born and raised in Santa Cruz, California who lives in Brooklyn, New York. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in decomP, Hobart, H.O.W. Journal, Big Truths, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among others. For questions and/or complaints find Luke on Twitter @godsteethandme.
Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?
I think leaving California and moving to New York to work on an MFA has impacted my writing if for no other reason than I’m putting in more time. This past year or two I’ve come to more fully understand that writing is rarely romantic and is almost always (at least for me) a matter of putting in the time. Also, and this kind of echoes what Matt Sailor said in his interview here at Heavy Feather, once I stopped trying to write short stories I wrote better short stories, if that makes sense. Sitting down and trying to write for a certain length wasn’t working for me. If while writing I’m saying, “I’m writing a short story, I’m writing a short-short story,” things probably won’t come off all that well. Initially I think I was honoring my initial conceits too much and not letting the story get what it wanted. Things started going better when I built up to 5,000-6,000 words and cut down to around 1000-2000 or whatever, when I listened to what the language wanted to do and cut accordingly. It’s a kind of boil-down, reduction sauce approach.
What are you reading?
I’ve been reading the collected works of Ai, the persona poet. She tells full stories in so few lines. She animates the emotional and spiritual with the physical—the concrete—and it’s incredible. I just read Linda Leavell’s Holding Down Upside Down, a biography about the poet Marianne Moore, which was great. Also, I’ve been rereading Jean Toomer’s Cane, which is amazing and crazy and has got me thinking a lot about the body and how much we try to abandon the body but how the most moving stories, to me at least, involve those experiences which we perceive through it in the physical world. I’m trying to understand Toomer’s link between body and spirit or whatever you want to call it. I’m also trying to learn the moves he makes that allow him to write a poem on one page and a screenplay on the next.
Can you tell us what prompted “An Instrument”?
The prompt for this piece is pretty transparent. I grew up going to church where prayer was ubiquitous. I’d written this character, the speaker in “An Instrument,” before and had him kicking around and was thinking about a minister I knew as a kid who had this big voice and spoke in King James. He could order carne asada and make it sound somehow Biblical. So I was thinking about him and prayer and all and came up with a line about a minister’s crafted prayers. It came, I think, as so many ideas will, while I was drinking a beer in the shower. I came out of the shower and took down the line and worked from there during the following weeks. I write fast and edit slow, so it took a while.
What’s next? What are you working on?
I’m working on a collection of stories based in a fictionalized version of a beach town in California. The characters inhabit churches and bars and a parking lot by the beach. There’s a lot of fog and complaining and not trying hard enough to try.
Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?
Crunchy Cheetos, not puffy. Fender, not Gibson. Thin crust pizza, never thick. Beatles, not the Stones.
I don’t think we need the names Greg and Craig. Can we choose one? Kristen and Kirsten could probably be sorted out too. There are more, but you get the idea.
I hate the LA Dodgers. I love the new The War on Drugs record and Go, SF Giants.
This is a dangerous question and I think I should probably quit here.