Thursday 22 December 2016

Day 22: The Subtle Serpent by Gregory Heath

1.     What gave you the idea for  Baubles story?

This story was first written many years ago, before my literary career (such as it is) had even begun. I was in ‘writing exercise’ mode at the time, trying to trick myself into creating something, using quotes as ‘taking off’ points. I never quite got the story to work, despite several revisions, but I always maintained a soft spot for it and hoped to see it in print someday. The Baubles anthology provided the perfect excuse for taking another look at it, and a relatively radical rewrite led to the piece as it now is.

2.     How would you describe your normal style of writing?

Although ‘The Subtle Serpent’ is not the kind of story I usually write, it contains a degree of understatement, a laconic quality, which best sums up my style, I think. The greatest compliment I have ever been paid as a writer is that I ‘write with a deceptive simplicity’.

3.     Have you published other material?

I have had two novels published, the first of which, ‘The Entire Animal’ (Waywiser Press, 2006), remains my proudest literary achievement, albeit it never set the world alight. My poetry and short stories have also appeared very widely in literary journals and anthologies.

4.     Do you have a writing routine?

I have had a very strict routine over a long period of time, writing for a couple of hours four nights a week and then all day on Saturday. I have to say, though, that I am currently on hiatus and haven’t written a thing for months.

5.     Do you have a favourite place for writing?

In the early days I used to write in a converted garden shed, which had a certain amount of romance to it. Nowadays I have a study in the house.

6.     Tell something quirky about you.

I gave up lecturing in English Literature and Psychology a couple of years ago to become a rat man (a ‘pest control technician’ if you want to be fancy about it) and it’s the best decision I ever made.

An extract from The Subtle Serpent 


Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3:1

And she said, “Oh, we can eat what we like, really.”

Then she paused. Then she said, “Well, there is one tree, right in the middle of the garden, that we’re not supposed to touch. But it’s not like we’re going short.”

“Mmm,” said the serpent. “Interesting.” And he slid away.

Thus the woman was left alone to consider the untouchable tree, with its curled golden leaves and its forbidden crimson fruit. She made her way to the middle of the garden and gazed and gazed at it until presently it began to niggle her, and with this the trait of niggliness was instilled within all womankind. Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a man calling, wanting to know where his supper was. She had quite forgotten the time.

Later, after the couple had eaten, the woman was just about to speak when the man beat her to it. “I have to say,” he said, “that I’m beginning to find your cooking a little uninspired. Fruit and herb stew – that’s all I get, day in, day out. What kind of a diet is that for a working man?”

She shrugged.

“The thing is,” he went on, “you just don’t seem to appreciate how much is involved in the dressing and keeping of this garden. And I’ve got a whole new batch of animals to name again tomorrow. It wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it, for something a little different to eat once in a while?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” said the woman.

“Yes,” said the man, “you do that.” He stopped momentarily to make an annoying little sound by sucking the air in between his teeth. “You know, it is rather irritating that I have to point these things out.”

“Yes,” said the woman.

“But I don’t want any bad feeling between us.”

“No,” said the woman. She sighed.

“So perhaps,” said the man, staring at his feet, “you could make it up to me.”

“Oh for God’s sake,” said the woman, “not that again.”



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