What interests me about my story, Daddy’s Little Secret (Unthology 5, Unthank Books), is how different it is to my novel King of the Jungle. I started Daddy’s Little Secret in 1994. It was originally part of a collection of short stories loosely inspired by Ian McEwan’s First Love, Last Rites and Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller. I liked the macabre, psychological, or playful, structurally experimental aspects of those collections. It was interesting.
Over next few years I dabbled with writing some other stories for my own collection, tentatively entitled On an autumn’s morning a passenger (I wore my influences on my sleeve). Coming from an art college background, writing was just another medium for expression and exploration. In 1997, I decided to write a novel that would later become the first part of my King of… trilogy. By this time I’d read a lot more books, watched a lot more films, and my tastes and working process had changed. I was a problem solver. And so if I was writing an art school bible, then it needed to be written like an art school bible. This style of writing would percolate and seep into King of the Jungle, and more recently the third in the King of… trilogy, King of the Slags.
So when I thought about a short story for Unthology 5, I revisited Daddy’s Little Secret. Originally, back in 1994, it had been only 1600 words, then a few years later I expanded the story with one eye on it becoming a novella. Eventually, and with Unthology in mind, I finished it. So over nearly twenty years, I kept going back to a story which had started out inspired by First Love, Last Rites and ended as an exercise writing, for me, in a very different way. It’s related. Of course it is. The first person narration, the tricksy-ness. The desolation and disguised and veiled depression.
Perhaps not that different then.
I liked writing the story. I liked writing in that more sedate style, and about a grown up midlife crisis. It was fun to go back and get that voice after three very different voices for the King of… trilogy. George, the narrator, is not an art student, a tramp shit picker-upper, or a slag. He’s a normal person. He has a wife, a daughter, a house, a car, a job. He has everything he thought the “sincerely middle aged” would want, but… It’s never that simple, is it? The ordinary, the perception of it, is never that simple. Something will snap.
Something can make it snap.
Catalysts. They change the story. They change a character’s arc. And they alter your writing style; and mine resulted in the King of… trilogy. Daddy’s Little Secret shares stylistic devices with my most recent writing, but its tone, its vibe, is a different KS Silkwood, one who is singing a lullaby under his breath, dipped in the sinister, the macabre, and the secrets we keep, but never tell.
*A version of this blog first appeared on the Unthank Books website in 2014.
Read Daddy’s Little Secret.
Sabotage Reviews: “‘Daddy’s Little Secret’ … plays skilfully with our expectations as readers…”
The Short Review: “[Daddy’s Little Secret] … is powerful, starting with the breathtaking opener.