Bloodlines released

So Bloodlines has been officially launched and that means you can get your hands on a copy by visiting

As part of whetting our appetite, editor Amanda Pillar asked the contributors to talk about the genesis of their story. Here’s what I had to say about mine:

When it comes to stories, inspiration can be found in the most bizarre places … and sometimes in the most mundane.

My contribution to Bloodlines – The Ties of Blood, Hair and Bone – started with a scene every parent with children can identify with: an adult wakes suddenly in the early hours of the morning with an overwhelming sense of being watched. They sit up in bed, clutching the covers, only to find their son or daughter standing next to the bed, studying them in their sleep.

I’m sure we’ve all read stories about creepy children, so I wasn’t convinced this scene, and the questions it elicited, would have sufficient depth or originality to carry a short story. And that’s the thing I’ve discovered about short stories over the years – one good idea, one good character, even a good setting, is not enough to sustain a short story. You need a collision of ideas, an unexpected, even improbable, juxtaposition of characters and situations that sets the story down rarely travelled paths. Think of half-glimpsed alleys in the perpetual shadows of high-rise buildings or overgrown lanes with crumbling houses looming on either side.

Those are the places I like to creep towards in my stories.

For Ties, the collision of ideas occurred when I recognised that I’d been wanting to write a story with an unreliable narrator for some time. I took another look at the child staring at her father lying in bed and I realised it was the father who was disturbed, not the child. The roles had suddenly been reversed and there I was standing at the mouth of one of those unexpected alleys. And what if the father was not the only unreliable narrator, I wondered. What if all my main characters in this twisted little family had an uneasy relationship with the truth, each deceiving the other?

Well, I had taken the first step and there was no turning back.

The first draft of this story turned out to be a grim little tale indeed. Members of my writing group (hey Thorbys!) asked me to consider what I was trying to say in this story. That was a hard question to answer because I wasn’t too sure myself. Somewhere along the way the tale had become a bit too convoluted and my narrator just a bit too unreliable. A redraft was in order and the role reversals in the story became more sharply defined. Plus a little more light began to trickle in, which was a good thing, I think.

In the end, I wanted to write a story that people could argue about over a cup coffee. If after reading Ties you end up asking questions like, Who was the real victim? or Who do you feel sorry for the most? then perhaps I achieved my aim.

That’s assuming you can trust anything I say, of course …