The genesis of a story is always fascinating to observe. Personally I write by the seat of my pants (plotting?? wazzat??), and it’s only as I near the close of a tale that the elements and themes start to come together to form the ending. Sometimes it all seems a little psychic — something mentioned on page 10 gets echoed on page 60 and before you know it, that ‘throwaway’ detail has become a lynchpin to the whole thing. Who woulda known. Editing in itself can be a bit of a whacky process. I’ve written a few stories before that fell out of me so completely that very little (in one or two cases, nothing — ‘Sweet Old Men’, for example) was needed to neaten it all up. I’ve also written stories I believed in, but that were so damn messy I needed to shred the thing several times before I could finally put it down and call it Done (‘Going Home’ — that one was a freaking nightmare to wrap up). All of this, by the way, can take a few days, a few weeks, months… whatever. Never mind the follow-on submission process, all those politely worded little rejections from various editors, the nights you catch yourself gulping back wine on your balcony mooning about how you KNOW it’s a decent story, you KNOW it is, so why won’t anyone buy it, dammit??
Next month my novel SEEING DOUBLE will be out with Grey Matter Press. (Actually, it’s already available for pre-order!) SEEING DOUBLE took me about a year to write, something close to a year to edit, and was welcomed in by the first editors to lay eyes on it — the awesome folks at GMP, Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson. Who deserve medals for their patience, just by the way. I finished the first draft in 2015. That means it’s been a big part of my life for something like three years now, and will continue to be for a while yet. When I first started penning it, I had no idea we were in it for the long haul. Because writers pretty much never do. But here we are.
On the other side, a few months ago my writerly pal Simon Dewar put me in touch with Matt Weber of Pint Bottle Press, who’s latest project is to publish a series of chapbooks by various dark fiction authors. Each chapbook contains two short stories by each given author, published piece-meal in bloody, bite-sized chunks of horror literature. Chapbooks! What fun. I had one story lying around (specifically, the one I’ve spent many nights on my balcony mooning about while gulping back wine… yeah, that one) and one I was slowly chipping away at. Now story #1 (‘Exile’) was another one of those stories that came through fully formed, and didn’t need much help in terms of editing. Story #2 (‘Shellfish’) went through a whole bunch of different drafts, seemingly with the sole aim of driving me batshit insane. But I finished it! And as far as I know, I am still sane. Well, at least a little. I think. Um.
These three works of fiction have had remarkably different beginnings, involved totally different processes, and took various lengths of time to complete. And now they’re all going to be out at more or less the same time. Something I find pretty incredible, if I step back and look at what these stories and I have been through together.
This is the magic of art, really. You never know what you’ve started, or where it’s going to take you.
Now put that wine glass down. We’ve got work to do.