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Interview: Rebecca Campbell on “On Highway 18”

Tell us a bit about “On Highway 18.”

“On Highway 18” is about the volatility of friendship at the end of high school. It’s about small towns and hitchhiking and pit parties and the many ways in which young women are vulnerable.

It’s also about a ghost and about what we leave behind when we grow up.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

My growing understanding of my own past, and experiences I had, as well as experiences I escaped (though others didn’t). Ghost stories are about something lost returning, and that’s often how my own memories feel to me.

I’ve always loved the story of the phantom hitchhiker, which is both a ghost and a kind of prefigure—a message about what could happen to a young woman alone, and a record of something that did happen. Just like all good urban legends, the ghostly figure on the highway also brings a sense of dread into an otherwise ordinary landscape. It’s a way to access the deeply weird that co-exists with the everyday.


Was “On Highway 18” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Very personal—which made it hard to write, though probably therapeutic. I used my own experience hitchhiking in the story—in fact, the only time I was ever afraid hitchhiking was also the last time I hitchhiked, and I used that in the story as a turning point for Petra’s character.  I also used the unsettling early experiences young women often have when they start attracting attention: men shouting from cars, men asking if you want to “party.”


What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

A sense of place: small logging towns, Canada’s Pacific coast, pit parties with cheap car stereos playing Bon Jovi. And a sense of time: before cellphones & social media when people couldn’t necessarily be found if they didn’t want to be.

I also wanted to explore an emotional landscape, where we can be haunted by alternative possibilities as well as the dead.


What are you working on now?

I’m scrambling with a novel, and I’m always working on short fiction, mostly about islands and rainforests and hauntings (that seems to be my territory).


Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for reading! If you want to see my other stuff check out


“On Highway 18” appears in the September/October 2017 issue of F&SF.

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