This week I started working on a new story called Digging In. It's an urban piece - or rather, a suburban piece - about a man trying to cope with a terminally ill wife who starts obsessing about his neighbour, a chap who keeps digging holes in his garden.
I write a lot of stories set in this milieu. Urban or suburban dread seems to be a theme I work at relentlessly. Sometimes I think I'm wasting my time; this isn't a very marketable genre, or subject matter. Urban dread. That line where the quotidian meets the weird. It doesn't sell. Sometimes I wish I could write sprawling fantasy epics instead. But I don't. I write this stuff.
As writers we create the stories we must. We have little choice in the matter, and are driven by forces so much deeper and stronger than we can really understand.
Long ago I came to terms with the fact that I'll never be an author who sells well, and I'm resigned not not gaining the plaudits some of my contemporaries enjoy. I plough a lonely furrow. But a lot of us do, and we do it because we have to. We write about these things because we can't live a life in which we don't. It really is that simple. And that complicated.
So I shall return to my character, who sits and the window and watches his neighbour dig. A man who's inner life I am uncovering, layer by layer. A man who, like me, lives a life that is driven by forces he cannot understand.