James Hayward, whose story ‘The Sorrow and the Thunder’ was published in the third issue of Lucent Dreaming, was born in the south of England where he spent a large amount of the time reading fantasy and sci-fi. He is now based in Cardiff where he also spends a large amount of time reading fantasy and sci-fi when his actual job in science doesn’t get in the way.
Writing short stories has always been a hobby for him, but at the gentle prodding of his friends he has started to try to get his work published. His first success is his debut publication in Lucent Dreaming which he hopes will be the first of many. In this interview he tells us why writing is so personal and what inspired his story.
What inspired your piece, ‘The Sorrow and the Thunder’ and how did it find its way to Lucent Dreaming?
Many, many years ago my writing group put out a challenge to write a short story with the weather as a major theme. I knew I wanted to use lightning, as it’s always been a fascination of mine. I had this idea that the lightning could be a path, and then of course you want to know where the paths lead, and if someone could use those paths. I’d love to say ‘and the rest just followed from there’, but in all honestly there were some wildly different variants on that theme! I kept coming back to it every now and again and tinkering, but it wasn’t until recently that I forced myself to sit down and finish it. The final story has very little in common with the original version I started writing all those years ago.
Lucent Dreaming is actually why the story got finished at all. I’ve spent years half-finishing stories and then abandoning them, thinking that they’re not good enough. Then a friend of mine sent me the link to the story contest and said ‘You’ll never know if they’re good enough if you never let anyone read them’, which really struck home. And well, here we are!
What does creating art mean to you?
I think that writing is the most personal thing that I do. If I was to take something I’d written and explain every plot, character and nuance to someone in as much detail as I could muster and then tell them to write the story, the end result would be very different. If I were to vanish, someone else could do my job, or take my place on the football team, but no-one else would write my stories.
What writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
I’m trying mostly to keep myself in the habit of writing, so I’ve found half a dozen short story contests that caught my eye and I’m (ambitiously) planning to submit something to all of them! There’s a solarpunk story in winter, a monster that eats names, one about the old tradition of Sin Eaters, a (hopefully) funny one about a wizard in a bit of a pickle… I like to have a lot of things on the go so if I get stuck on one I can switch to another. I hope to pluck up the courage to start a longer work at some point, but I’m enjoying the short stories for now.
What are you most excited about right now and for the future?
The Rugby World Cup! And on the creative side; now that I’ve got my first work published I’m excited to see how far I can take my writing.
How and where do you find inspiration to do your craft?
Everywhere. I have a little notebook, and whenever anything grabs my attention it goes in the book. It could be a line I heard in a film, music lyrics, something from a dream, a random thought… Every now and then I flick back through it for inspiration. They could be anything from detailed plot ideas to nice-sounding titles or names. One of them just says ‘PIGEONS!’. It’s underlined twice. I wish I could remember what that was about…
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
Sit down, get your hands on the keyboard/pen, and go. Don’t get caught up second guessing yourself as to whether it’ll be good enough. Get the words on the page first, and leave later until later.
I say that having done more or less the complete opposite for years! Always getting caught up in ‘what-if’ and ‘maybe’ is why I have so many half-finished works, but I’m changing that now. I would also recommend joining a writing group, as the advice and feedback you can get is very useful.
But the best advice is just to keep writing. It’s all about practice.
Where can people see more of you and your work?
‘The Sorrow and the Thunder’ is my very first published work, so you’ll have to wait a little I’m afraid! But who knows, maybe you’ll see me on a bookshelf near you some day.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.