Halliville and Grice’s Town. Are these actual cities? In what part of the world does this story take place?
As far as I know they’re not real. I always get stuck for character names, place names, and the day I wrote the draft of this story I’d been teaching a class, and we’d been covering some linguistic theory. Halliday and Grice are linguists. The names were just in my head, and they seemed to work. I don’t really have any firm idea of where this story happens. American frontier? I really have no idea. The draft of the story was written in a timed hour exercise; I wasn’t really thinking about where it was set at the time.
A Bible burning trader… Pete is such an interesting character. Where did he come from? What spawned him?
Like I say, the story just came out in a rush, and I honestly have no idea where any of it came from. I don’t know anyone who burns Bibles. Or who’s cut out their own girlfriend’s tongue. I like writing characters like this, people who are outside of the usual boundaries. Pete’s just the kind of person you really, really wouldn’t want to have to share a shack—or a bed —with.
“Pete’s laugh, it worried me. Out there, it’s best to keep quiet. Some animals, they don’t like to hear a human laugh. It strikes them they’re being mocked.” Yikes! How would Pete respond to this thought? Is he in any way a religious man? What about your viewpoint character?
I think Pete is as far away from religious as you can get. He’d enjoy the idea of mocking dangerous animals, I think. Reading the story back, the narrator strikes me as the kind of man who isn’t really religious, but he’ll hedge his bets just in case.
You’re relatively new to writing. What prompted you to start?
The real kick up the backside was when I went to a conference and saw Jim Crace speak. He’s a novelist I really admire, and he was a very inspirational speaker, in a subtle, down-to-earth way. I wrote my first short story that night when I got home.
Since this is my first issue with SLQ, I thought it’d be appropriate to discuss firsts. Writing firsts. First time you called yourself a writer, first publication, first check. Those sorts of things. So, dish. What is your most memorable writing first?
Finishing that first story, I think. Just reading it back, thinking, ‘yeah, that works ok,’ was a good feeling. The first cheque—for sixty pounds—that was good, too!