We recently published Steve's book In Fields of Butterfly Flames, a collection of short stories, so I've invited him on to my blog today to talk about his writing and this book in particular.
1. What do you write? Why
this in particular?
I write literary fiction, in particular short
stories, many of which are centred round characters within dysfunctional
families. I also write anthropomorphic stories and fairy tales.
Most of my favourite writers employ literary
fiction, so, naturally, I too am drawn to this genre. My interest in using
anthropomorphism comes from my love of stories by Richard Adams, Rudyard
Kipling and others. Limited as the market seems to be towards short fantasy
stories, I especially enjoy getting lost in the creation of characters borrowed
from the canon of Irish and world mythologies.
got you started in writing in the first place?
I have always been creative, whether sketching and
painting the birds I kept in aviaries as a teenager, or building the enclosures
in which the foreign finches and parakeets were housed. Not until I went to
college and compiled theses on the works of
the playwrights George Bernard Shaw and Sam Shepard did I discover the
pleasure to be gained by creating characters and imagining them into
predicaments from which I must help them escape or allow them to succumb. This
drive to create, to produce something new is summed up perfectly in a quote by
Arthur Miller speaking about his own writing. It’s the drive ‘to cast a new
shadow upon the earth.’
you have a particular routine?
In a perfect world, I would write first thing in the
morning after breakfast. This is the period in which my mind is at its most creative.
Alas, like most of mankind, there is the need to keep the proverbial wolfpack
from prey-rushing me when I open the front door. Ironically, this awful
pandemic, which has altered how we live and work, has given me the opportunity
during lockdown to indulge my perfect writing routine, on and off, for a few
you have a dedicated writing space?
There are two places in my home in which I do most
of my writing: in my bedroom at a desk, or in the living room on the couch,
with my pc perched upon a laptop desk.
did you decide to call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?
At the age of twenty-five, I had the dubious success
of being awarded First Prize in the first writing competition I ever entered. I
say ‘dubious’ because I imagined this would lead to instant publication and
further successive wins. Of course, this isn’t how things went. But with quite
a few years gone over since then, and with them more than fifty short stories
included in periodicals, magazines and anthologies, along with a collection of
twenty-two short stories published by Bridge House Publishing, I think I can
give myself the title ‘writer’ without inwardly cringing.
supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you’re doing?
To be candid, some members of my family, just like
some of my friends, are more supportive than others. In the world in which we
now live, a world where technology and handheld devices have, for many,
replaced books, not everyone gets the idea of reading the printed page, let
alone the dedication of those who aspire to write those pages. But I must give
a special mention to my sister, Nessa, who set up my website, and who spends a
lot of time improving it and updating it whenever I have a publication or a placement
in a competition that needs to be add to it.
What are you must proud
of in your writing?
Naturally, none of us writes in a
bubble. That my work is read by others brings enormous personal satisfaction.
But when I get feedback through comments or reviews, it makes all the hours of
effort even more worthwhile. And then there is the socio-political aspect to a
work of art. All art, even if its creator claims to be apolitical, is in some
way socio-political. In this way some of the themes I explore and interrogate
in my work allows me to understand better my own viewpoint or stance on a given
Some themes, even when not being
explored overtly are implicit in the way we tackle them. To take as an example
a fairy tale I wrote called ‘The Land of the Ever Young’. In this story a fairy
mother returns to a family a year on from the time when she stole their
beautiful new-born child and left in its place a changeling. The changeling has
brought destitute and death to the family with its insatiable appetite. This is
the surface of the story, but what I’m really exploring here is the starving
Irish families of nineteenth century Ireland. An Ireland where the impoverished
farmer, beset by famine, could not afford to rear a child not born fully abled and
therefore unable to help out on the small holding. And so came about the
superstition that gave them freedom to effectively end the child’s life, fully
convinced that their real child had been stolen and replaced with a demon fairy
when I read the question about what I’m most ‘proud’ of about my work, I wasn’t
sure if ‘pride’ was the correct emotion, but then I recalled a review of ‘The
Land of the Ever Young’ from some years back, and I looked up the following by
Mel Ulm on his blog:. He Writes: ‘I found his short story “The Land of the Ever
Young” fully qualified to stand with the great occult fairy tales of Sheridan
Le Fanu or Andrew Lang.’ Yes, as I reread this now, I’m smiling, and my chest
How do you
get on with editing and research?
For me, the
best part of writing is the rewriting. I’m with Hemingway who said first drafts
are excrement. Over the years I’ve followed all the advice that tells us to
leave a finished piece of writing for a few days before reading over it a
number of times to pick up on any inconsistencies, typos, spelling and
grammatical errors. Of course, it helps a lot more if you have someone reliable
to read the piece too. As we can’t always home in on everything in our own
research, most of my work doesn’t call for any in-depth research, other than checking
sources relating to specific places, the time of year when named plants are in
flower and so on.
Do you have
any goals for the future?
goals about getting works published depend on the decisions of publishers to
whom I submit my writing. I have written a few novels and have enough
completed short stories for another three
publications. As for specific goals, there are a number of literary
competitions in which I’ve been placed before but would be very happy to be the
outright winner – what writer wouldn’t?
have inspired you?
The writers who
I feel most indebted to are Hemingway, James Joyce, Jack London, John
Steinbeck, and Cormac McCarthy. And, when it comes to writing fantasy, Hans
Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Oscar Wilde would be at the top of
My book: In
Fields of Butterfly Flames
Tell us about
‘In Fields of
Butterfly Flames’ is a collection of twenty-two short stories. Most of the
stories first appeared in anthologies and periodicals. Some of them have won
prizes or have been placed in literary competitions. Many of the stories
explore the theme of familial dysfunctionalism. Other themes deal with the
search for identity and the need for purpose. What the characters in every
story have in common is that they are in some way broken or fractured, in
search of meaning if not healing.
Tell us about
your research for this book.
above, because it is a collection of short stories, there was no direct
research necessary when writing. The indirect research that could be said to
have gone into the stories is life and living itself, the experiences I’ve had or
have read about others having; the books I’ve read, the places I’ve visited,
the movies I’ve watched. All of it has been grist to my mill.
you to write this?
what I do. It’s what I think about when I’m not writing and not distracted by
something else. Characters, their plights, their status, where they live, their
jobs and background take shape in my head when I’m taking my daily walk on the
seafront, standing in the queue in Tesco or lying in bed waiting for sleep to
come. Collating the stories into a collection seemed the obvious thing to do.
I’m working on my third novel. The previous two have not yet been published,
apart from one of them being awarded First Prize in a writing competition and subsequently
being released as an e-book. The novel I’m writing now is an extension of one
of the title short stories from my collection. Apart from the novel, I’m also
collating three other collections of
short stories. One of literary fiction, a second of anthropomorphic tales, and
a third of Christmas stories.
How can we
get a copy of the book?
‘In Fields of
Butterfly Flames’ can be ordered directly from the publisher, Bridge House
Publishing, or it can be ordered through Amazon.
2. Do you have any events planned? Due to the current pandemic, any ideas I had
for a book launch have been put on hold.