Tim Wirkus's short fiction has appeared in Gargoyle, Cream City Review, Sou’wester and Ruminate Magazine. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, been recognized on the list of Other Distinguished Stories in Best American Mystery Stories 2011, and been selected as a finalist in Narrative’s 30 Below contest. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California.
TCR Talks with Tim Wirkus
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I’ve been writing for about seven years.
Q:Where did you get the idea for "An Intrusion?"
A: A while ago I tried writing a story about a couple who keep finding objects in their house that don’t belong to them, that they’ve never seen before--a frozen salmon in the freezer, a foreign bottle of shampoo in the shower, a postcard of a wolf pinned to the living room wall. I couldn’t get the story to work, though--all the objects were too mundane, and even though that’s what interested me, I couldn’t make it compelling on paper. So I shelved the story.
A year or two later, I decided to take another crack at it. I read through the draft and the only part with any real tension was the scene where they find the postcard in their living room. I tried centering the story around the postcard, but lost interest and shelved it again.
Not long after that, I read Roberto Bolaño’s story “William Burns” and got really interested in writing framed, anecdotal short stories. I took my found objects story, trimmed it, added a frame, and changed the postcard to a series of photographs. I’ve always been unsettled by snapshots of people I don’t know.
Q: Who are some of your favorite classic authors?
A: Edgar Allan Poe, who’s a much smarter writer than people sometimes give him credit for, especially in stories like “The Man of the Crowd” or the Dupin mysteries. Patricia Highsmith, who does unnerving crime fiction in romantic locales better than anyone. Borges, who is essential. Hawthorne, who’s consistently a lot more fun to read than I thought he would be.
Q: Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?
A: Kate Atkinson, especially her Jackson Brodie novels, which pull off the tricky feat of being truly character-driven mystery novels. Roberto Bolaño, especially his short fiction. I read Yoko Ogawa’s collection The Diving Pool about a year ago and that’s stuck with me. David Mitchell is a virtuoso, and what I like most about his fiction is that all the showiness ultimately feels generous to the reader somehow. Lydia Davis is fascinatingly concise. Steven Millhauser makes the same story structure interesting again and again and again.