The boy who told himself stories

  Listen to the author reading The boy who told himself stories.

The beginnings of the story…

Even as a kid I used to tell myself stories. All the time. In my bed, at school, on the high street, in the library, on the bus home or the train, out on my bike roaming the countryside. I’d go over forthcoming meetings unsuccessfully trying to sway the future. I’d rehearse past events hoping to ease the sting of embarrassment and guilt only to make the pain worse with my repetitions. I’d spin fantasies of underground worlds and atomic reactors and magic photo apparatus as I rode the world on my bike. I’d tell tales of enforced ambiguity in otherworldly girls schools as I lay unable to sleep at night. It was there that I discovered stories can have a mind of their own. I’d be on the lookout for drama in everyday life, a fleeting smile, a grim expression, a hand brushing another, a misplaced word, and off I’d go rushing after possible scenarios. And that didn’t even include the fragments of stories that sprang unbidden to mind.

There I was lying on my bed, quietly minding my own business, thinking of nothing in particular, when a voice out of the blue said, “…Yes. I’m well aware of their…” I came to myself with a start, bringing the words to a halt mid sentence. I must have drifted off. But where did that voice come from? And what about the rest of the conversation? There was clearly a before and an after, but it had slipped beyond my reach. Close on its heals came another voice, or maybe it was the same one, “…did his thoughts floor you?” The tail end of a conversation that had a metallic taste to it, or it might have been blood. “That was wanted long before…” The sentences were coming thick and fast. Would I ever be able to sleep again? The thought sent a shudder of panic through me. “…an unprecedented increase…” I had to let the bits and pieces go before they tore me apart. Another fragment made itself heard. “She’s opened the victim’s door.” It was as if voices from a million parallel worlds were funnelling through me. “You said the king’s dangerous…” An incessant nonsensical chatter on the verge of making sense.

With such a proclivity for telling stories you’d have imagined me eager to write. Early experiments however were soon shot down by teachers. Bad spelling they said. Chaotic structure they said. Eager to criticise, they had no advice on how to improve either. They completely missed the point, unable to come to terms with the forces that drove my storytelling. At least no teachers scribbled in red all over the stories I told myself. So writing stories was an option I did not have. Instead, for years I harboured doubt and a deep-seated feeling of incompetence and inferiority. There was no room to hone my ability to wield wild and wonderful stories. To be honest, I was barely aware I spent so much time telling them. It was a natural part of me that I took for granted. Only years later did I discover the delight of writing and astonished myself at the ease with which my stories took shape on paper, writing sixteen novels in as many years…

See details of all Alan McCluskey’s novels.

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