Exiles Guest Blog: Gardening and committing a crime – How I came to write ‘Taking out the Trash’ by Aidan Thorn

Exiles cover preview (1)When I saw the suggestion that contributors to Exiles do a piece talking about what inspired them to write the story that we’ve contributed to the anthology I have to say I wasn’t keen. I can rarely recall what it is that inspires me to write. I always think I just write stuff that comes into my head down, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll hear a sentence and think, that’d be a great title for a story. Sometimes I’ll wake up with an idea in my head that I just have to get on the page – those of you that have read my work (thank you, both) probably won’t envy my dreams!

So, having enough to say about what inspired me to write ‘Taking out the Trash’ to create an article was going to be no easy task. I figured I’d give the request a swerve, keep my head down and hope none of my fellow contributors noticed I wasn’t pulling my weight.

So what changed my mind? Well to some extent I’m being selfish. You see, I’m going through an extreme dry spell. I finished my last, no let’s be optimistic and say latest, short story in February and have barely written a word since. I have two novellas in progress that I can’t bring myself to do more than re-read the parts that are already written and tinker around the edges with minor edits. I’m lacking inspiration!

And so that got me thinking about what inspires me to write, in the vain hope that it might flick the light on again. Turns out it’s more than just a thought that unconsciously arrives in my head and just has to land on the page.  I went all the way back to my first published short story, Fingered. That one was easy, when I was at college a few of us formed a band, and when I say formed a band we did what I think most people that form a band do, we came up with a name for the band and spent our rehearsal time jamming Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ The name that band was given, 3 Fingered Louie. If I’d have spent as much time focusing on the band as I did coming up with a backstory for this Louie character I’d have been a pretty solid musician… So, when I came to write ‘Fingered’ I wrote what I knew – a character I’d created 10 years before.

I’ve been through all of my short stories trying to work out where they came from, I’ll tell you about a couple. I have a little horror story over at Thrills, Kills and Chaos called, The Guest, that’s inspired by a photo from my parents wedding. As my parents make their way from the church there’s an old women stood beside a grave stone. You shouldn’t notice her past my mother’s beautiful white dress and the beaming smiles on the newlyweds faces, but the eye is strangely drawn to her, something isn’t right. The thing is, she isn’t standing at all, she’s floating next to the gravestone, she doesn’t even have legs on which to stand – neither of my parents can tell me who she is.

Another of my tales, Last Orders, (another TKnC tale) was inspired by sitting in doors on a rainy Sunday and seeing a re-run of the turgid Britain’s Got Talent from the previous evening – I knew that programme had to be good for something! I won’t go through the rest of my stories, one, because I don’t want to put too many spoilers out there for those of you that want to rush off and buy my short story collection, Criminal Thoughts (hint!) and two, because this is supposed to be about, Taking out the Trash.

So paragraph five and finally I get to the point of the article, bloody hell I can ramble on for a short story writer! I’d love to tell you that the story behind Taking out the Trash was profound and interesting, but it’s really not (that’s probably why I chucked that story about The Guest in there, it’s a pretty cool one, right?).  It all started in the garden and ended with a crime of my own – one so pitiful I’ll lose any credibility I might have built up as a gritty crime write. I’d been cutting back a lot of bushes and removing even more weeds. There was so much waste I filled the car with it. It was a Sunday, late afternoon and I was heading for the local dump. When I arrived at the dump I found it to be closed. There was no way I was unloading all of that shit at my house again so a criminal thought (product placement alert!) entered my mind. My previous house had been near the woods and people were always dumping crap up there, much to my disgust, but now I had a car full of garden waste and my morals were far less important to me than my immediate problem. I drove up to those woods and I emptied all five sacks of waste right below the sign that told me fly-tipping was prohibited and could result in a hefty fine and perhaps even imprisonment. In my defence everything I dumped that day was entirely natural, but I still wasn’t impressed with myself. It played on my mind that I’d done something I really wasn’t happy with. ‘I’m not a crook’, well unless you count nicking a ‘shoplifters will be prosecuted’ sign for a laugh when I was 16, I just write about them. I decided to make something good from my misdemeanour and write a story about a proper fly-tipping crime, I guess I wanted to make myself feel better… What I did was nothing compared to the mess that Eddie from Taking out the Trash finds himself in.

My original aim for Taking out the Trash was to have it run at 700 words about submit it to Shotgun Honey, I love that site and could never make anything work at their tight word limit. I couldn’t make Taking out the Trash work at that limit either, but there is another story up there now, Waste Disposal, a complete reworking of the original idea that does work. Taking out the Trash was my first go at the story for Shotgun Honey, but when I saw that it wasn’t going to fit within their limits I just ploughed on and figured I’d find a home for it somewhere. Thankfully that home is Paul D Brazill’s Exiles Anthology, a great honour. So, that little trip to the woods to get rid of the garden waste resulted in not one but two stories… Who knew pruning a few bushes would end that way… Perhaps I should head out to the garden again today and see if more inspiration strikes.

Bio:  Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in the Byker Books’ Radgepacket series and the Near to the Knuckle Anthology: Gloves off, as well as online at Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Shotgun Honey and Near to the Knuckle. He released his first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts in December 2013.

Exiles: An Outsider Anthology is OUT NOW from Blackwitch Press.