Paul Haines writes stories that get under your skin. He’s an arsehole in print, he really is. A couple of times, I’ve physically thrown a book away from me, wanting to distance myself from the words. That’s how good he is. Bastard.
“Sparks: The Devil In Mr Pussy
I was still in the throes of Clarion South burnout from the year before. I’d only started reading for pleasure again a few months ago, but was struggling to get near the keyboard to write, let alone have a brain that held any idea at all for me to write upon. Writer’s block? I just felt stifled. Stuck. Nowhere. There were a lot of things going in my life at the time, the biggest of which was IVF – the most essential and natural form of creation of all. And that wasn’t working either.
We were living in our new house and nothing seemed to be going right at all. We weren’t falling pregnant, I couldn’t write a thing, our cat was on anti-depressants (and clawing the hell out us when we tried to administer them and then he’d sit on my desk staring at me with what looked like hatred). Our house had also supposedly been built guided by the hand of St Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters (I kid you not) and I had had fun taking the piss out of the whole house buying situation. I then started to wonder, in those dark lonely moments of paranoia deep in the night, that perhaps I had scorned St Joseph and we were being punished for it. Again, I kid you not.
Write what you know, they say. I also remember Cat Sparks telling me if you only write what you know you become very limited and boring. So I started thinking about mind-altering drugs (again), this time for research not pleasure. I wondered what those antidepressants did to my cat because they really fucked him up, turned him into a completely different animal.
So I started writing what I knew. Creativity – in all its form – stifled and withered; a house haunted by St Joseph, a cat angry and addicted, fatherhood no longer in my control, and living quietly in suburbia. For the record, I never tried the cat’s anti-depressants, and I never ate his cat biscuits. Though I got close to nibbling on those biscuits.
What came out was weird and wonderful. A blurring of all genres and none that it clearly relates to. It’s also laugh out loud in places and was probably one of the pieces that really helped define the “Paul Haines” voice and the length of short story that really suited me - the novelette. Lessons learned: write it if it is me, and that it is real, and it’s all happening, baby! I was lucky enough to win a Ditmar for the story.
We had to put Mr Pussy down later that year. My wife was now pregnant and he just wasted away to fur and bone.”