Today we are pleased to feature author Melissa Olson-Petrie as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Melissa discusses the inspiration behind her short story, “To Walk Chalk.”
As Melissa reflects on the story, she says that she’s “surprised by how much family lore has been an inspiration.” To her, she says, “the biggest inspiration was the setting: a Victorian house my great-great-grandfather built in 1898, in a Wisconsin town known for its tobacco farming.” She describes an experience that she had as a twelve-year-old, where she was told that “they embalmed people in the basement,” and how it “gave me a Gothic twist on a seemingly typical Victorian home.”
In addition, Melissa explains the meaning behind the phrase “To walk chalk,” and its relationship to field sobriety tests. She says that the phrase “seemed to resonate with the struggles and the whiskey consumption of the main character.” She describes the police scanner that her grandfather would periodically use to “see what was happening across town,” and how this true-to-life detail “took on new significance” in the story. In the end, she says, “every once in a while” as she writes stories, details like these will “come back, like an unearthed gemstone.”
You can read Melissa’s story, “To Walk Chalk,” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.