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Art imitating Life

Strange things happen when you embark on a life writing fiction. Your characters start to come alive in your imagination, developing quirks and attitudes you hadn’t anticipated. Your sleep is hijacked by new ideas and insights which come to you in the dead of night.

Novels are notoriously difficult to write – or at least to stay the course long enough to finish. Enter the short story. Inspired by a whim or an idea, or simply by the prospect of a less lengthy commitment, the project comes to life. The choice of subjects is endless.

My volume of short stories, A Waltz through the Dark Wood, will be published in July. Perhaps as a reflection of my tendency to dwell on the darker side of human nature, the content is sometimes raw and confrontational. I’ve tried to capture people as they are in all their complexity and desperation.

Two of the stories, California Gold and Zero Sum Game are drawn from real life events, something I hadn’t anticipated when I started writing the original drafts. In both instances I was shocked by a coincidence, namely an article and a documentary that caused me to rethink the stories themselves.

Writers cannot disengage from real life entirely, even when their products are essentially works of fiction. Using real people and real events has its own hazards. Your motivations may not always be appreciated by your readers. You’re simply compelled to go ahead because of the irresistible nature of the subject matter.

I’ve already started writing the next volume of short stories – a similar mix of subjects, both contemporary and drawn from the past. This time I’ve come up with the titles first, a departure from my previous method of concept or theme first. I suppose it matters not how a story is conceived, only that it makes it to the finish line.

A Waltz through the Dark Wood will be published in July 2023 by Castra Publishing.

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