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Like all authors, I am occasionally asked where I get my ideas. Well, mostly, I don’t get them at all. They just grow, like shower mould, until I am forced to do something about them.
However, the first two stories in what has become the Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal do actually have identifiable roots, and this is where they come from.
Simon Feximal was created when my son, who is four, spelled out the word ‘feximal’ on the fridge in brightly coloured alphabet magnets and asked me what it meant. Well, I didn’t know what it meant. It annoyed the daylights out of me that I didn’t know what it meant. It looked like it meant something. And by the time my son replaced ‘feximal’ with a different random jumble of letters, I’d decided what. It was the name of a Victorian ghost hunter, and I had a main character, looking for a partner.
While I was thinking about that, I started considering how a lot of Victorian pulp stories use a framing narrative. Every Holmes has his Watson, the first-person narrator who tells his stories. There’s something very weird about this to a modern sensibility. This guy, the ‘I’, the sidekick in his own stories, devotes his life to telling the stories of the other man. And I wondered, what if you were as close as many people like to believe Holmes and Watson were? What if, in telling your lover’s stories, you were forced to write yourself out of your own?
And that gave me my concept. Simon Feximal’s lover/sidekick/narrator Robert has spent twenty years presenting a false, or at least incomplete, version of reality to the world, one in which he’s just the narrator rather than the equal partner. Now, at last, he’s going to tell the whole truth, the real stories. Call it a blow for all the Watsons out there, the invisible partners, keeping quiet.
My third bit of inspiration, for the second story, Butterflies, says everything about what’s wrong with writers. It was a sunny afternoon and I was having a long, rambling, deeply enjoyable phone conversation with an author friend. I happened to mention butterflies, and she asked me if I’d heard the story of King Arthur and the butterflies. I had not. So she told me this charming little obscure folk tale she’d found, which would be a perfect story for five-year-olds…
And all I could think was: That’s the next Feximal! I sat there, agreeing that it was indeed an utterly delightful piece of whimsy, how very sweet, while frantically Googling how to make butterflies kill people. By the time I got off the phone, I knew exactly what appalling supernatural horror Simon and Robert would face next. This is why I can’t have nice things.
But hey, I’d rather have inspiration.
The first Simon Feximal short story, The Caldwell Ghost, is out from Torquere Press
The second, Butterflies, is available from today as a free download from Smashwords.
I hope you enjoy them!