This story goes way back – it’s the first story I had in print in a magazine for which I was paid the going rate. So it has a special place in my heart. As did the illustration that the magazine commissioned for it and I’ve always wished that I could have bought the original, which captured exactly the sense I had of the main character. I contacted the artist at the time and they were going to send me a print of it (which would have been lovely) but whether they did, and it got lost in the post, or something happened which caused them to forget, I don’t know. Sadly, when I moved house sometime later I lost my copy of the magazine, so now don’t have a copy of the picture at all.
The idea for a story can come from anywhere and anything. In this case, I was on a bus on my way into Belfast to shop and as we passed an area of housing obviously scheduled for re-development, I saw a street much like the one below, but in which every house but one was empty, with all the windows bricked up.
It raised lots of questions – Who lived there? Why were they still there when everyone else had gone? What would it be like to be that last person in the street? What kinds of problems might they encounter? How or would they cope with them? What might they do in the end when they had no choice but to move out?
The answers to these and other questions formed the core of the story and gradually the character of Agnes was born. Often, as an author, you become very fond of your characters, and this was definitely the case for me with Agnes, as I got to know her, and developed her personality and her back-story. And having formed her I then needed to get inside her skin in order to work out what the end of her story would be.
The final piece of the jigsaw arose out of the Northern Ireland context, and my own childhood, but I was pleased to discover that when this story first appeared in a magazine in the UK, someone from England wrote in to say that the story spoke to their particular circumstances also.
This story can be found in my new short story collection, Dust Blowing and Other stories.