I met Craig Wallwork on Twitter. As you’ll find from his guest spot, Craig writes stories that are delightfully off kilter. His collection The Quintessence of Dust begins with the chilling tale “Night Holds a Scythe,” where a father and daughter face an apocalypse where sleep brings death. It is free on Smashwords, and if apocalypse isn’t your game, read on… the stories vary far and wide in scope, but the writing is on the level and solid as granite:
Every story is based on truth. Any writer that says differently is lying, or a thief. In my case, I have practiced the art of turning truth into fiction to avoid dealing with its severity or consequence. Quintessence of Dust is my way of dodging bullets, and at times, living in denial.
There is no secret to this practice. It happens quite naturally. I once suffered from chronic constipation one Christmas. I put it down to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and not rehydrating my system. New Years day I end up spending way too much time, and putting too much effort, into a visit to the toilet. The result of which ended with me making an appointment with my doctor and him talking about a technique that involved eight fingers and a rubber glove. The basis of this became Anal Twine. The aforementioned method is not regularly practiced, don’t worry, but it did amuse me. It was enough of a kernel for me to venture further into the hole (figuratively speaking) where a man who, suffering with anal fissure, discovers a bit of twine hanging from his rectum which, when pulled, removes his short term memory. Writing that story took my mind of the pain and discomfort I was enduring at the time, more so than the cream I had been prescribed.
Likewise, I was diagnosed with a condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). It is where tiny fragments of debris in the inner ear labyrinth cause short episodes of vertigo when you move your head in certain directions. Some days it would floor me. I’d try and get out bed and it would feel like the invisible man had pushed me over. It dissipates over time as the fragments become lodged in the inner ear, but during the episodes, it’s terrible. About the same time I heard the term Gutterball, a ten-pin bowling reference that describes where the bowling ball drifts into one of the gutters before it reaches the pins. I thought it quite an apt analogy for my condition. But to write a story about this seemed too mundane. So I asked myself, why would a person veer to one side or get dizzy? If it was an inner ear problem, then what could be floating around in there instead of calcium deposits? This led to the protag, Milton Ball, discovering a strange and wonderful truth to why he suffering with BBPV, a truth which pushes the boundaries of reality and brings meaning to his life.
This theme continues in other stories within the collection; A Neck That is Not Thicktells the tale of a man who believes all his bad luck, and all the atrocities he has experienced in life, can be attributed to having a thin neck, so much so he considers hanging himself, his ultimate quandary being how big the noose will have to be. Next time you see a picture of me, check out my neck. Night Holds a Scythe is the story of a father chasing the sun to try and keep his three old daughter alive after a strange illness takes over the world whereby to fall asleep means death. I have a three year old daughter and one of my worse fears was her dying in her sleep. I once took a coach trip from Middleborough University to Manchester and fell in love with a girl sat next to me, even though I only saw her arm throughout the whole trip. The basis of this became Morning Birdsong and the Hell Demons. 180 Degrees Shy of Heaven is a story about a person I know, and how the famine of sex in his marriage led to much hilarity in the office. Skin was loosely based on my morbid fascination to be submerged underwater, the experience being compared, you might say, to returning to the womb. Men of Blood, a story about a Minotaur living in today’s society, was probably the most personal of all the stories, and recounts the life I had while sharing a house with one of my friends, a person I saw as a much stronger character than I. And the list goes on.
My truths are so deeply buried in the fabric of these stories that to speak so candidly about them would have been too hard a process to undertake. Issues of regret, acceptance, love and remorse are so delicate that handled without care or proficiency would do each an injustice. Therefore, I place these issues within absurd and strange worlds where zoophiles falls in love with a talking camels, a man faces his sins while the devil’s breath is upon his shoulder, and infidelity manifests itself in the art of chocolate making.
They say truth is stranger than fiction. After reading Quintessence of Dust you may disagree.
Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels To Die Upon a Kiss, and The Sound of Loneliness. He lives in West Yorkshire, England with his wife, daughter and two chickens. Find out more about him via his website:http://craigwallwork.blogspot.co.uk/
© 2012 Thomas Pluck
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