How are you enjoying our milestone Issue 050? On top of these gems of short speculative fiction, we also get to pick our authors’ brains for their inspiration and thoughts behind their work! In today’s hot seat is Madeleine Sardina, author of “Ghosts in My Lungs.”
LSQ: I don’t know what I was expecting from the title, but it wasn’t this beautiful little story of love and perseverance. What gave you the idea for “Ghosts in my Lungs”?
Madeleine: I pulled a lot of inspiration for this story in general from my own experience dating with mental illness and how that can filter (or sometimes break) into a relationship. The concept of ghosts in a person’s lungs is how it often feels to me with my anxiety, kind of like butterflies in your tummy except not nearly as cute. There’s this almost physical pressure that reaches from my chest all the way through to my fingertips, a fear of saying the wrong thing or that I’m not in control of whatever is coming out of my mouth and I would rather just shut down than accidentally say or do the wrong thing. I started thinking about a character who had that manifest inside them as ghosts and how they would form relationships to work around that. And then I wanted to give that person someone who made them feel safe in spite of that affliction.
LSQ: I love the dichotomy of the chill of the ghosts and the heat of this strange and wonderful girl—when you compared the steam coming out her nostrils to a dragon, I got such a vivid image in my head. How did you decide on their different afflictions?
Madeleine: That’s actually one of the first images I had in my head when I considered a character who had too much heat inside her! Since I had already developed this idea of a character with ghosts inside her that made her physically and emotionally cold, I wanted to pair her with the classic opposite: a loud, fiery personality, open and warm, who would also enter into a sort of mania when she overheated as opposed to withdrawing into herself the way the narrator does. I wanted these two to balance each other out — not necessarily to fix each other but to offer some sort of comfort, even just a physical comfort or a demonstrated willingness to meet each other halfway.
LSQ: Is there more casual, destructive, secretive magic in this world, and would you ever write more of it?
Madeleine: One of my favorite aspects of magical realism is the fact that, unlike some hard fantasy, the rules of the world don’t have to be as fleshed out in the narrative. So there might be more magic in this world! Or there might not and it doesn’t mean these two magical characters are special or have to use this magic for any greater cause. They get to exist in this microcosm where they just have to worry about not arguing with their girlfriend or buying enough food for dinner or accidentally freezing or boiling their coffee over. I write mostly magical realism because I love throwing magic into a world while still being able to tell human stories without global consequences. I probably won’t write more in this world, just because I crafted it around these two characters and since their story is complete that’s pretty much a wrap on that universe, but there will definitely be more casual magic in my future stories!