When I first published Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel, I immediately wanted to share a little insight to why I wrote the stories I wrote. I was itching to tell you which childhood memories inspired which stories, I wanted to divulge the real life events that I morphed and moulded into fictional scenes and I was so eager to tell you about the people I know - or don't know - who inspired the characters that many of you have now "met" and asked me questions about...
It didn't take me long to realise that if I had done that - shared with you the reasons I wrote what I wrote - I would have given away half the story before you'd even had the chance to read the first page. So instead I wrote a post about the numbers that went into writing Shy Feet.
And still now I urge you, if you've not yet read Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel, then bookmark this page then close it or press the back key, or alternatively click on this link which will take you back to Norway and my experience as a dog-musher.
Or better yet, go and buy Shy Feet as an ebook or paperback on Amazon. (Or if you'd like to try a three story preview for free, click here.)
But if you have read Shy Feet and your curious about the themes, messages and motivation behind the stories, then please keep reading.
The title story of the collection was inspired - believe it or not - by my visit to a spa in Kuala Lumpur to have a massage. As I lay face down on the massage table, my face poking through a hole, I watched two feet below and I thought about the dynamic between the two people during a massage; the closeness, the skin-on-skin contact, the aim to relax one while another works hard. It's a funny old scenario in many ways, but I knew it would make for interesting writing - and hopefully reading. The first draft of Shy Feet actually featured a very different woman to the protagonist you read about in Parts One and Two, (that woman was struggling with her inability to get pregnant and she vehemently disliked her life as an ex-pat in a nameless city in Asia) but the conversation and connection between the main character and the woman who becomes known as "Shy Feet" virtually stayed the same, except for a few key changes to suit the different plot. I hope it is clear where the bravery and strength of character lies in this story... it was very important that it also dealt with the idea of being lost, physically and emotionally.
The Flowers Sleep Tonight
This story was the biggest risk for me. An almost love-story, it sort of wrote itself, albeit first from the point of view of the girl alone, but then I realised how much Thomas had to say, so I split the narration between them both. I knew Barcelona was the perfect backdrop to their tense reunion but I didn't realise how quickly and easily readers would fall for their story, even though the ending isn't as clear-cut as I feared you'd like. With a bit of hindsight I can see that it has all the hallmarks of a good story - mystery, romance, internal conflict and past pain - so I'm grateful to the lead characters for having such strong voices in my head that I just followed their lead. And do the flowers sleep tonight in Parc Montjic? Well, you'll have to go yourself to find out.
The Lost Children of Gatwick Airport
Although the whole book is dedicated to my parents, this story is for my Mum who suggested I write it based on my own experience of getting lost in Gatwick Airport when I was around 8 or 9. The story is very much my story until the young Ruth meets the man in the corridor, short trousers, white socks and all. What happens next isn't quite so factual but that afternoon remains one of my most vivid and frightening memories; I only wish I'd had a bit more of Ruth about me to let my imagination wander as much as it did...
Homes from Homes
Many years ago, when I was a single woman, I stayed in a flashy hotel in a big city on a business trip. The first time I stepped into the lift going up to my room, I was aware of a very attractive man standing behind me. My body temperature must have risen nearly ten degrees as the lift climbed. When I got out I turned and looked at him and realised he was hotel staff. For the rest of my stay, I kept half an eye open for him but I never saw him again. That was part of the inspiration for this story, that and London, which I hope becomes clear by the end.
The least said about this story the better, other than stating I too once went to the city of Bath for a "fling" with a man, but marriage was never on the cards. I love how many people love this story; it was a joy to write!
This is my love song to Thailand, and how it effects people in many different ways; but it always has an impact. There's a reason I will always keep returning to this country. Also, I wrote these two main characters with every intention that you wouldn't like either of them... so feel free to hate away, I know I did!
Katie's Maps is the only story in the collection that wasn't written as a first draft for NaNoWriMo in 2012. The idea of a story about a woman obsessed with maps came to me whilst running along the seafront in Brighton & Hove last summer. To this day I have no idea why it popped into my head, but once it arrived I knew instantly it was going to stick around. After making sure I did my compulsory mile, I raced home, and before even showering, I sat down at my laptop, opened a new Evernote document and very quickly typed out over 1500 words which became this story. It's the strangest (and darkest) of the collection, but I'm very fond of it - again for reasons, I can't really explain.
The first of two stories to feature France heavily, but this one is possibly my favourite because it focuses on that once-in-a-lifetime experience of falling in love for the first time. There is one real life event in this story, which really did occur in an old converted chateau hotel in the south of France, but I'll not give it away here... The photo above shows that chateau and garden which inspired the main character's walk around the grounds where she met the gardener.
The Road is Long
This story is dedicated to my good friend Gilli, who lives on the Central Coast of Australia. Gilli is a Brit but has lived in Australia for extended periods of time and has an innate understanding of the country. It was she who told me a story about how she came across (but did not hit herself!!) a wallaby by the side of the road. As soon as I heard that story back in early 2012, I knew it had to feature in one of my own fictions. The backdrop of an elderly Swiss couple's marriage falling apart while holidaying in a campervan, well, that wasn't really based on any first-hand experience though my travels on the road in New Zealand helped me understand the lifestyle. And can I just add here that Marius is one of my favourite characters; who cares if he irons his underpants!?!
A retreat to the camping holidays of my childhood, Max has to deal with issues - and ants - that thankfully never crossed my path as a young girl. His wild and playful imagination, however, that's completely my fault.
See the Amalfi Coast
Ah, Martin... if it wasn't for you and how well people reacted to your swearing and obnoxiousness I don't think I would have had the confidence to finish and publish Shy Feet. You are everything I loved about going to University in Yorkshire and working part-time with a number of "lerr-cals". And as for the Amalfi Coast, you are also a life-changer (which I explained more about in this article) and no matter what anyone may think from what happens in the story, I love you too Naples, very, very much. Watch out for "Pink Flowers" the sequel, coming soon. (See the Amalfi Coast is still free at Amazon.)
All the Beaches are made of Pebbles
Of all the stories I wrote, this one was the most emotionally draining to work on (and read again) and yet there are many funny moments, mostly thanks to Belinda, our protagonist's wayward, man-hopping sister. I suppose it's to be expected when it's one of the few stories in the collection that almost covers somebody's whole life, rather than just a snippet of their time on Earth. It also deals with some very sad themes - rejection, illness, death, regret and grief. Above all, I wanted All the Beaches are Made of Pebbles to show the reader how extraordinary ordinary love, loss and life can be.
So there are some of the stories behind the stories... did I answer your questions? If not, then please do tell me what you want to know in the comments or by email. And thank you to each one of you for reading and special big thanks to those who left a review on Amazon or Goodreads - they really help!
Frances M. Thompson
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