A Very Bad Year – The Story Behind The Stories


I wasn’t going to be so presumptuous as to assume that readers might like in their download a bit of information about how each story in ‘A Very Bad Year’ came to be. I know that many famous short story writers often include notes about the inspiration behind their tales, often containing spoilers. I didn’t want to put myself in the same bracket as say, Stephen King, so I thought better of it.

But then I thought that some readers might be interested, perhaps just a little bit, so I decided I’d stick something here. Nothing huge; just a few lines on each. I’ll just do January to June for now.

So if you haven’t read the first half of ‘A Very Bad Year’ please leave this post until you have. Here be spoilers.

January: This was always going to be about the losing weight idea, and the final notion of her shedding quite a lot of weight – in other words her husband. The blackouts were always going to feature, but the inclusion of Mae the wooden figurine from Thailand came by accident. I just worked it in, not realising what a part it was going to play. As the story grew, I saw the potential for a more supernatural element, and Mae started to take over. Makes you wonder who is actually in control…

February: The couple at the restaurant – Scott and Jenny – are essentially my wife and I. Whenever we go to a restaurant, she has to sit with the best view of the room so she can people watch. I just started to think about what a person might see over their spouse’s shoulder in this situation, something that they didn’t know how to deal with. Again, didn’t start it knowing that ghosts would find a way in, but as Jenny started to describe the other folk in the restaurant, a part of me wanted those innocents to come back at the end…

March: I decided early on that Easter would be April and not March for this anthology, so it was then a case of thinking what inspiration I could take from month three. St Patrick’s Day seemed the obvious setting, so I dug around until I was reminded about him driving snakes out of Ireland. So then I thought, what if he collected all the snakes? And what if the snakes were people? I liked the idea of writing a story where the potential villain is actually the hero at the end. Which is a good thing, because Jake is an arsehole…

April: Speaking of arseholes: Warren Slade. (First name inspired by Easter bunnies, by the way.) This story came to me more or less fully-formed, once I decided to use an Easter egg hunt. It was then just a case of going through the stages, allowing the stakes to get higher. What did evolve as I was writing it was the notion of pieces coming back – the foil wrappers, the bones – which added a different dimension. And I liked the idea of Barrow having the know-how at the end, waiting for Slade to resurface. Balance…

May: My version of playing the record backwards to hear the hidden message from the devil. Started out as a simple enough story of teens, driven by peer pressure, messing with things they should leave well alone. I didn’t know as I was writing that there would be history between the Conrads and the Kennedys; all that evolved as I went along. The surnames by the way, chosen because they are common in that area of England – according to the internet – as are all the others in the story. Not sure how common actual Jack of the Greens are…

June: A bit of a cheat this one, as I had most of it already written as a chapter of a potential novel. It obviously needed a bit of work to give it a short story structure, and I had to work in all the June references to make it fit the brief. Did you get them all? In the original it was set on Valentine’s Day so I changed that to Summer Solstice. The Gemini Programme became an obvious name change. But I also played with the character names a little. In mythology, the Gemini twins are Castor and Pollux. That’s why I had Cassie and Tori Pollock. Sneaky. Oh, and by the way, it’s an intentional play on words to have a wrap sheet, not a spelling mistake. I read a review that thought otherwise…

Just a few thoughts then. Hope that offers a little bit of insight. I’ll post about the others in the near future.


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