What germ of an idea begins your stories? Places, feelings, people, objects, actions? It’s odd, sometimes, the things that inspire a tale. Some of mine have been inspired by family history – the half-truths whispered about murderers, prostitutes, and thieves but never elaborated upon – inklings of past misdoings that just had to be investigated when the writing bug hit me. Others have been driven by burning questions, like what or whom could I forgive? How unconditional is unconditional love? Can I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made? What would I be prepared to do for love? How would one cope with being wrongly imprisoned for causing a cot death? How does the mind cope with abuse? Deep questions I felt the need to explore – to answer if I could. One was partly inspired by a burr-elm box, another by climate change, and yet another by a walk along the Great Wall of China and Ogham ‘letters’ on a stone windowsill in a church up the coast from where I live.
But a cheese sandwich? How could that possibly inspire a full-length novel? It raised the age old question most writers ask themselves. What if? It made me wonder about trust, especially trusting those you love and whom you suppose love you. What if the person you trust has a hidden agendum? What if they weren’t trustworthy at all? What couldn’t they get away with?
Where does the cheese sandwich come in? My husband loves to play practical jokes. On one occasion he pushed open a window so wide, I had to go outside to shut it – he has long arms; I don’t. When I came back inside, the window was open again. Had I shut it? I began to doubt myself, but the grin on his face gave him away.
On the occasion in question, I’d made myself a cheese sandwich, but when I came to eat it, it had no cheese. Was I going mad? No, the rat had removed the cheese and put it back in the fridge. He split his sides laughing, but it got me thinking. Someone like that could actually f*ck up your mind. He really had got me wondering if I was going senile.
And thereby hangs a story, doesn’t it? I’ve written novels with less inspiration to go on – so thank you, dear, for stealing the cheese in my sandwich; my next-but-one or two novel could be down to your wry sense of humour.