People have been asking me this question a lot since the publication of my book. Others have asked about specific characters and their connection to “real” people – the characters are mostly more an amalgam of real people then they realise – for better and for worse, depending on the character. One of my “villains”, Andy Matthews (who features in The Tipping Competition and A Day at the Top), has been the subject of some considerable conjecture – but is really built on someone I knew fifteen years ago, plus some insights from the various people I spoke to about their own “boss” stories.
Other times, something fun gets said spontaneously and I have to write it down. This happened yesterday while I was watching my oldest son play cricket. The team were sitting around talking about the Rugby World Cup final, played last night. I was not so keen on 13 year olds discussing the odds on offer, but this exchange made my day
Boy 1: France are 4 to 1
Boy 2: No, France are 8 to 1
Boy 3: France don’t even have one!
It was a superb piece of improv that got the laughs it deserved. And strangely prophectic, given that France lost by 1.
Like all the little slices of life that I see now that I’m looking, it was quickly tapped into the Evernote app on my phone for future reference. Not that I’d have forgotten this gem!
When the idea for Cracks in Ceiling started to become more concrete, one thing that was always on my mind was that most of the stories were going to be about “first world concerns”. It’s not that the pain of losing your house or job wasn’t real for those who’ve suffered through those issues. But for the most part, for those in the West, neither of those things happened at the barrel of a gun, or at the crest of a tsunami.
About half way through the writing process, I heard a friend, who had just visited aid agency Crossroads International in Hong Kong, talking about the plight of refugees.
After some further reading, and interviewing another friend involved in refugee advocacy, the idea for Afloat started to develop. How would a refugee who got as sea-sick as I do feel about spending a week on a leaky boat? The working title for the book at that stage was “Dreaming of Home”, and this gave impetus to exploring the idea of how we all dream of a home for our family.
In the first draft of the completed collection, Afloat didn’t sit so well with the other stories. It was only after a rewrite to link it to the characters in an earlier story, Two Emerald Cities, that it felt like it made sense, and really belonged as part of the whole.
And for me, all the more so as I come to the end of a two week stay at Crossroads with my family, having packed a container of goods to be sent to Africa. Our added bonus was meeting and hearing Australian singer/songwriter and advocate Helen Mottee.
Read Afloat and ten other short stories in Cracks in the Ceiling – available now!