Where do you get your stories from?
Buttons of life. I compare myself to a person who finds a button and makes a shirt to fit that button. For example the character Bassman in Desmond Lola and Bassman was partly inspired by two individuals I encountered briefly about 40 years ago. During a visit to Nottingham, England, I was taken to a youth club where my attention was drawn to a wildly intense game of dominoes. It was a very vocal game, full of the theatrics familiar to anyone who has lived in the Caribbean. The Jamaican language of the players was too complex for my understanding. The loudest member of the group turned out to be from Barbados but one would never have guessed, so fluent was his command of the Jamaican language. In the second incident I attended a wedding in London and was taken by surprise by the skill of an unlikely looking musician. I merged aspects of what I saw in these two personalities into the character of Bassman. It is a story about identity.
Are any of the stories autobiographical?
The Price of Fish comes closest to a personal experience. For several years I watched the fisherman at Bathsheba leave in their small day boats and marvelled at the courage of these men. But I have always been the spectator, never the fisherman. And yes, I did resolve never to question the price of their fish after witnessing them guide their little boats through some very rough seas.
Why did you set The New Sybaris in the future? Surely the situation exists now?
The New Sybaris is a mildly satirical look at what I consider to be a lack of clear policy on land usage in Barbados. I see a time when it will become an issue to a wider section of people. I wrote the first draft in 2009 and intended to set it in 2019. However events popped up which made me bring the date forward and I eventually settled on a start date in 2015. The date is not intended to be prophetic but I anticipate that concerns about unfettered developments of a particular sort will increase and the issue may be brought to the fore rather dramatically. It is my hope that before then a well thought out approach is brought to bear on the matter rather than a hurried response as a result of popular outcry. While the situation is current, the solution at the time of writing is in the future.
Do you have a favourite story in Facing North- Tales from Bathsheba?
I like them all, of course. But The Price of Fish could be considered something of a favourite. It is a very real story.
Why did you write A Dog’s Tale from the point of view of the dog?
The title of the story should answer your question. A dog’s tale is surely best told by a dog, no? At our house we are dog lovers. We have two of them. Dogs understand much more than we believe they can understand. Our dogs understand what we say to them but we don’t always understand what they are saying to us. I first wrote this story from the point of view of the people in the story and then rewrote it from the dog’s point of view because it seemed the more logical thing to do. Interestingly enough, A Dog’s Tale is a favourite among many readers.
Two of the stories in this book are rather long for short stories. Have you thought of writing a novel?
Both Island Man and The New Sybaris could be considered novellas and might have become novels. Desmond Lola and Bassman was conceived as a novel then condensed into a short story. I have now written a novel. It is due for publication in August 2017. It is a murder mystery. The title is, Prickett’s Well.
Why does Bathsheba inspire you?
I believe that Bathsheba inspires everyone who spends time there. It is one of the most dramatic pieces of landscape anywhere. The meandering descent on winding roads through steep hills covered in all kinds of tropical vegetation, the breathtaking view of the shoreline with giant boulders scattered at or near the water’s edge, the ocean waves spouting a continuous spray turned into a fine mist by a constant breeze, the invigourating salt air, there is an ethereal quality about the place. I would have liked to have seen it before houses and roads were built.
St. Aidan’s Anglican Church is located in the centre of the village. This is unusual as outside of our towns, Anglican churches are often on the outskirts of the communities they serve. It is a stone’s throw away from a rum shop which is typical of other churches located within communities. There is an Amerindian site at Hillswick which has only been minimally excavated. I often think of the people who once lived there and what their lives must have been like.
People in Bathsheba talk about ‘Bathsheba people’ as if they were a separate and distinct group. Bathshebans remind me of the rural community in which I grew up.