Write what you know. And what do you know better than your own stories? (We’ll park the question of my notoriously poor memory.)
Published today at Piker Press, “Calculus, Charlotte and the Breaking of Waves” is at its heart a true story. Except the bits that have been inserted because I just can’t recall across the span of thirty years. And except for the barest little flush of magic. In fact, it is hardly magic at all, merely interpreting two things that were coincident, possibly correlated, into being causally related. Isn’t that what magic is? Reasons overriding reason.
For what its worth, this much is unequivocally true: I did visit family on Grand Cayman at the age of 16, their condo was right by the beach where the water was dominated by the wreck of the Gamma, and there was a gazebo where I would attempt to study. It was also the winter in which I finally cracked Calculus. As for the rest, you decide where to suspend your disbelief.
It’s not the first time I have used the formula: true recollection, judicious addition where age and uncertainty have left a fog, and a pinch of fairy dust. The first story I sold, and which has recently been reprinted is a case in point. The good people at (the now closed) Mad Scientist Journal first bought “An Absolute Amount of Sadness” in 2016 and Flame Tree found something resonant in it this year.
Varying the quantities affects the outcome. Perhaps my favourite of my published stories is “The Book of Condolence”, a collage of unrelated truths stitched together with pure invention. Dark House books picked up that one for “What We Talk About When We Talk About It”.
And now I think of it there is some central truth, some seed of reality in every story I have written, no matter how fantastical. The Girl Who Gives Me Sunsets (my favourite title of one of my stories) is a nickname for a dear friend, who coincidentally provided the Spice Girls facts that are the musical motif of the story.
It could be as subtle as a turn of phrase, a symbol drawn in biro on skin, or the garage where I had my car repaired, there is always a kernel of truth, a part of me. In Calculus, Charlotte and the Breaking of Waves I am more present than in any of the others, but I am somewhere in all of them.
It leaves me wondering if it is possible to completely absent yourself from what you create.
While you ponder the answer, Calculus, Charlotte and the Breaking of Waves is this week’s featured story over at Piker Press and will be available at this link thereafter. Or follow the trail of links above to find other anthologies with my stories.