Invitation

Between 2010 and 2012, I pretty much stopped writing anything of any length because my children inherited my love of a late night. The most I could manage was the odd short story, and Obverse editor Stuart Douglas was accommodating enough to include me in most of the invitations to pitch he sent out.

In large part of my decision to set up Obverse Books in 2008 was based upon an absence of the sort of books I wanted to read, combined with a realisation that I had a mental list of a lot of very good writers who were not being commissioned enough.  You were - and continue to be - at the very top of that list.

Stuart Douglas

I was rejected for a few collections, but that wasn't why I decided I wouldn't submit anything when the call for a collection to be called Wildthyme in Purple came round. The theme of the collection was to be Pulp fiction, and I have read very little Pulp: I didn't think I had enough of a grounding to give the story the post-post-modern edge that Iris demands. So I passed.

But as the deadline for proposal got closer, Stuart got in touch and asked me to reconsider: he didn't have enough stories for the collection, and he could do with having someone he could trust to write one quickly.

For every open subs slot I announce, at least half of the pitches consist of variations on 'A does this thing and iris fixes it'.  I need far more detail than that.

Stuart Douglas

I might have said no again, but he reminded me that as a genre Pulp covered a lot of ground: I was thinking of Pulp SF, but the stories of Raymond Chandler – of which I am a fan – are also considered Pulp …

Inspiration

The main inspiration for my story was Stephen Wyatt's excellent radio play Double Jeopardy. It featured Patrick Stewart playing a mannered and grouchy Raymond Chandler, struggling to write an adaptation that became the film Double Indemnity: the character was painted so well – and took himself so seriously – that I couldn't help thinking he would be the perfect foil for Ms Wildthyme. The story was an excuse to put the two at loggerheads, but was itself inspired by memories of my university film studies lectures and someone mentioning the rumour that no-one involved in making the Big Sleep actually knew how the chauffeur Owen Taylor died.

Editorial

Probably because of the circumstances of its birth, The Bronze Door didn't require much tweaking before it was accepted for the collection. With Patrick Stewart/Raymond Chandler's voice in my head, I found the whole thing remarkably easy to write, and for the first time in two years I managed to get a decent number of words onto the screen before one or the other of my children woke up. Despite being a story I thought I wouldn't be able to write, The Bronze Door became one of my favourites.

What Happened Next

With the story finished and ready for publication, I started to think that it was time to get back into writing properly. I'd filled the time I couldn't spend writing reading as much as I could about the theory and structures of creative writing, and listening to podcasts about the industry and how you make things happen. I was enthusiastic about sitting down and getting something started again … I just didn't quite know what it would be. But Stuart did: somehow he had read my mind, and got in touch to ask if I was interested in doing something more substantial … that, at the moment, I can't talk about.

But the discussion around that also caused me to be at the front of Stuart's mind when he was thinking who to get to edit the next Iris Wildthyme collection. He asked if I'd be willing at the beginning of 2014, but it wasn't until the end of the year that we managed to agreed a schedule and a theme.

It was a pleasure to publish you in the 'Panda Book of Horror' and then several times since, leading up to the longer work you're doing for Obverse now.  I can honestly say that I have never read anything by you  which I did not consider exceptional, and look forward to working with you more in future.

Stuart Douglas

Open submissions for The Perennial Ms Wildthyme opened in November, with the book itself being scheduled for some point in the middle of 2015. My first piece of work as an editor, and all from a story I wasn't convinced I could ever write.