Who is your most influential writer? Who do you always go back to for inspiration?
When it comes to writing weird fiction, especially something like ‘String’, I always return to Robert Aickman. I may turn the day I found out who Robert Aickman was into a national holiday actually. In my second year of university, I was on a module called ‘The Weird’ and was introduced to his work via his short story ‘The Swords’ and ever since then, should I need inspiration, advice, or just words, I return to him.
What inspired your piece?
An amalgamation of things really, but the main source of light and inspiration was my own family. Both paternal and maternal. Drawing on both elements to create something inspired by them. I try to keep myself and my writing separate, which isn’t always easy to do so, and here there is some crossover between the two. To delve into the macabre and melancholy for the moment, on my Dad’s side of the family, near the village where he grew up, there is a church graveyard where nearly all of our past family members are buried. The grandad I never met, my grandma, cousins, great aunties and uncles, the lot, and me and my Dad, in our typical fashion, occasionally head over there to ‘visit’. I wanted to explore how you can connect the dead to the living. How those family ties never truly leave you, and that there is peace to be found in going somewhere usually so full of sadness. This is particularly true when I visit that graveyard, as I’m looking at names of people I’ve never met, and yet, they are blood, so I feel a connection to them. The ‘string’ in the story acting as a physical way to represent that.
Away from my Dad, and towards my Mum, the woman in the story, ‘Mrs. Welch’ was conjured up from a conversation we were having over pizza and wine. I was telling her about my plans for ‘String’, and that I was struggling to conjure something I felt authentic. True to life in terms of who Mrs. Welch was, how she dressed, and the house she lived in. In steps my mum with a wealth of ideas and information about her Nanna Lillian. From the carpet she had in her house to the clothes she wore. It gave me so much more to work with, and the name ‘Mrs. Welch’ was my mum’s old school teacher from when she was young.
Tell people about your ideas, you never know how they may help!
What do you want readers to take away from your piece?
To be forgiving to those around you, and their privacy – and know that everyone has a personal story to tell, which doesn’t always need to be aired for all to hear. Small stuff, really…(ha)
Do you find writing invigorating or exhausting?
Both. Equally. But sometimes the exhaustion I feel after writing is quite invigorating.
Do you have a favorite line or lines from your piece?
Perhaps “curiosity doesn’t wait to be absolved of guilt.” – I’m pretty fond of that one.
Do you keep any snacks around while you write? If so, what’s your favorite?
Coffee (is that a snack?) and a pic ‘n’ mix from my local shop. My sugar intake when I write is dangerous.
Do you ever create soundtracks for the piece you’re writing?
Yes (sort of). I listen to music for inspiration. For ‘String’, it was Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield, especially ‘No Easy Way Down’, written by the sublime Carole King.
What is your ideal writing environment?
I do well in cafes, ever the cliché. At home, I distract myself. In a café, I manage not to.
Do you have any future writing plans?
Keep writing. Enter a few competitions and see where it all takes me. A very close friend and I are also trying to get a poetry chapbook of the work we did at university published, so that too.
You can read Emily Harrison’s piece “String” in Issue Five of The Ginger Collect.