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I wrote this (fairly) short story for a competition that was judged in its final stages by none other than Stephen King himself. In the end a great story based in the epistolary tradition and told through e mails won the day, and rightly so. That said, I was pleased with this, started me writing daily again after a bit of a break, and as is the case with all writing, the joy is when a story surprises you as much as any reader, as it unfolds.
It’s pretty clear that I was reading a lot of King about then, and pleasingly some of that flavour stayed to add piquancy to Blood Will Be Born which was first drafted in the year that followed.
Not sure how it works for others (please, get in touch with me, share your experiences and your craft), but for me stories more often than not begin with single images. The story that eventually became Battle Lands began life as I took a black taxi up the Andersonstown Road in west Belfast when I was over seeing my family. As is the way one can hail a cab in parts of Belfast by sticking your thumb out and hoping the driver pulls to (usually, but not always) an abrupt halt without indicating. You jump in, find a seat, and get friendly with strangers taking the same route. Where I’m from when you want off you rap the glass partition and the driver stops. Really, I think London missed a trick there, but all hail Uber I suppose.
Anyway, the road was clear, the pavement empty and up a head an old boy stood, plastic bag in hand and stuck the thumb out. The bag looked like it contained a carry out (off licence sold alcohol). I moved over to make space for him, but our driver carried on without stopping, as though he wasn’t there. I turned and looked out the back window, half expecting him to be gone, but he was still standing, arm stretched out, waiting for a ride. Or maybe waiting for someone to stop and help him with his bag.
Perhaps he still is.