A first sentence appears and I see where it goes. Sometimes a dream, real incident or newspaper cutting sparks an idea or image. I love fairytales and twisting things to make them slightly subversive or surreal. My stories have won the Ian St James Awards and been short listed for the Asham Award.
Commissions are the ultimate creative challenge. In 2015 the West Midlands Readers’ Network asked me to write a short story for a book group in Shropshire. They gave me a list of narrative ingredients, which I threw into my mixing bowl. A story emerged about a biscuit man who goes on the rampage – the town, Market Drayton, is renowned for its gingerbread.
Stylish, beady-eyed, wildly inventive and very funny
Poet, critic and non-fiction writer, Al Alvarez
Gingerbread Clive – an extract
Elspeth and Lindsay Clive didn’t bake their normal batch of gingerbread that afternoon. They didn’t want any more pusillanimous biscuit men with clownish smiles and blue icing bibs. Instead, they set out to make a biscuit man who was as big as the whole baking tray and one of a kind. Their gingerbread man wouldn’t be anyone’s nephew or third cousin twice removed. They were fed up of that in Market Drayton.
‘Kick one and they all hop,’ was Elspeth’s favourite saying.
Their gingerbread man would be their friend and protector, a biscuit they could rely on to call their own.
The couple trickled madeira wine into the dough along with the ginger. It was a spice that Elspeth always said tasted like orange marmalade with bite. They spat on the dough for good luck and slipped their creation into the oven at gas mark four, unaware that a drop of blood from Lindsay’s thumb had been mixed in. Then they tidied their kitchen, hung up the bunting they’d last used for the royal wedding, and toasted each other with the wine.
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