Had a big drink organised for when I won the Fish Short Story Competition. Ten grand in the bag for my entry El Niño. No doubt about it. Had it already spent. Serious Dusht.
Not long before the result myself and my friend Matt were walking down the road in Woodquay in Galway to go Bowling and drinking and he said: ‘You have that nailed, I know you have, I’ve read the story, it deserves it.’
The bowling was great because you got a free pint with every game except the more games you played, the worse you got. But it was great craic. “My round, lads. Sure I’ll be loaded soon. This is great research too, might put bowling into a story some day. Anyone for a Jaggerbomb? Take the edge off Tuesday evening….”
The story got Shortlisted down tot he last 17 (out of 2000) but that was it. Didn’t even win a pack of peanuts. You log on and check the site and see the list of winners and best of luck after that. If your name’s not on it, then I guess you didn’t win. So I read some of the winning entries and like all pissed off losers I reckoned they were shite.
If you need anything to keep you going as a writer it’s rage. If you take out the rage, you’ve nothing left only self doubt, self pity, blame of others, laziness and lack of conviction in yourself. Rage can be powerful enough to block out these negatives and keep you blindly crazy enough to keep going with what can seem like an impossible task. Every time you lose a competition, get a rejection letter, be shot down by a critic or get a bad review – you put it in the rage room of your mind and eventually it sublimates into creative energy.
I’d already been expanding the El Niño story, but now I felt it was time to move forward and at accelerated pace. I needed to do some more research and Matt used to work in some kinda DVD place on the Headford Road. Streaming wasn’t that big at the time, so most of the stuff you watched you did on DVD.
I had an idea for the characters in El Niño to do a robbery. The protagonist, Charlie, had been picking pockets up to now, but I wanted to evolve his character into a more serious criminal.
The place where Matt worked was called Chartbusters and I asked him if I could have a look around the back. He let me in one quiet evening and gave me the run of the place. Where the money is kept, how the stock is counted, the security at night, the cameras, the metal steel door at the front and who has the keys. I got to walk around upstairs and check out the tanning salon adjacent to it and was able to work out where the exit doors were and how one might escape in the event of an unexpected police confrontation out the front. Effectively, I got to plan the entire robbery – for research. The place is closed now but I got great material for writing and the robbery became a crucial conflict point for the eventual novel.