A Gift For Cheyenne by Nik Eveleigh is one of the oldest tales in the LS vault. Although it didn’t require carbon dating, it hails back to the week after the LS Big Bang. November 2014.
It is one of the site’s earliest darknesses, told by a rather hard-bitten, hard-biting MC, who you find yourself compelled to hear out, despite how you may feel about her. But, as the reader of the story will clearly see, she has a right to be a little angry with Cheyenne.
Q: Do you remember writing this, or is it still somewhere fresh in your mind?
Q: It has a great kick idea, regarding the girl and the husband. Was this something you went in with, or did it just happen during composition?
I’m impressed with how far down into the vaults you are prepared to go Leila – this was the first thing I submitted specifically for LS and is the first entry in the now defunct spreadsheet of doom and wonder (like the other editors we agreed on some older stories of our own that we used to seed the site in the early days while building momentum)
To answer your questions, I do remember writing this fairly clearly probably because it was darker and different from most of my other stories (this might be my only Adult Warning sticker – that’ll bring a tear of pride to Hugh’s eye!). I know at the time I wasn’t in the happiest of places career-wise and also adjusting to having two young kids so there were some weird dark things creeping into my writing (late nights and red wine do that to a guy).
The girl and the husband angle was there very early on (from memory!) – glad you approve! I had a name (Cheyenne) and this weird scene in my brain and my first immediate question was “Why is the woman there?”. Once I answered that then all roads led to the conclusion. I know there was quite a bit of back and forth with the editors to get this one over the line and I couldn’t have got it to the final state without them. I wanted to create a sense of dread – no doubt I was doing my best steal-like-an-artist from the killer scene in Se7en in terms of the bag and the hints but no reveal. There’s also no doubt that the terror of something awful happening to a child was very much in my thoughts so like many stories there was an element of my own dread and fears playing out, albeit in a very different way to most of my daily scares.
Since we had our celebration posting yesterday, we’ve all chipped in with some questions.
It’s always a pleasure to read your work and this doesn’t half take us back to discussions and input and dread and fun.
I didn’t want to give you any normal questions and decided to think outside the box a wee bit.
1. You mentioned that this, at the time, was your darkest story. Have you ever considered something that you had quite clear in your mind but decided not to go there due to the content? And since you never went there, could you even let us know what the topic was?? (You can tell me to fuck off if you want!!!!)
A1: Haha! No need to tell you to fuck off! What a great question. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fully formed, clear piece of writing that I’ve shied away from delivering – I think there’s a mental filtering process that happens with me that if there’s anything that would be majorly upsetting to those closest to me then a seed of an idea gets shut down fast. Most of my story ideas and my style of delivery tends towards weird or unusual settings, links to science and poking fun at classic fantasy, so I haven’t (yet) felt like there are these incredibly dark tales that I need to uncover. But I promise if one ends up in my brain I’ll at least let you know what it would have entailed before I trashed it!
2. I had a look back at the comments and I was very interested in your reply to Richard. What stands out for me is how methodical you were in your reasoning and thinking. You put across a clear and concise answer to all of Richard’s points.
Do you think that’s what makes the difference, as in, if the writer has considered all the whats, whys, mentioned and unmentioned, that gives them the confidence to be comfortable with their story?
A2: Another great question! I went back and read the exchange with Richard for clarity as I’d actually forgotten that it came about. By the time I wrote this piece I had quite a few stories under my belt which had given me some basic confidence in the process, but I feel like it’s always important to consider all aspects of your story while going through the red pen phase and making changes and edits. As mentioned in my response to Leila there was a lot of back and forth with the editors on this one so I was even more acutely aware of needing to know the story intimately! So to answer the question specifically, I think being rigorous in your own editing and understanding process gives you confidence and also ensures you’ve made the story the best it can be. We’re never completely “comfortable” but it allows me to at least step away and feel vaguely ok!
3. For all writers out there, would you say that the therapeutic value of writing is worth the disappointment?
A3: YES!! Write for yourself. Write the stories you want to read. If anyone else wants to read them it’s just a bonus – the therapeutic and cathartic benefits of committing words to paper far outweigh any potential disappointment.
All the very best my fine friend – These were a lot of fun to think on!!
It’s great to have the gang back together with the added joy of Leila.
I know this is an old piece and would understand if you can’t remember but maybe reading it again will bring back some of the feelings you had at the time.
a) This piece seems to me to be a different voice to most of your other work. It is interesting that the narrator is female and rather black hearted. Do you remember if writing in a different gender was difficult and were you aware when you were writing it that the voice was so much more ‘grim’ than a lot of your other work?
A1: It really is great to be all back together again and I’m so chuffed that the three of you wanted to dig this one out and ask some questions – and that you continue to make me feel part of the team. Hanging out with the cool kids is fun!
This definitely wasn’t an easy writing process and was outside of my normal comfort zone – a fact probably supported by how much editorial debate and discussion we had. Certain stories and characters (I’m looking at you Stormcrow) almost write themselves when the mood takes them, but this one was a lot trickier to craft. Reading back over it I can see that the voice of the MC is still a bit patchy and there’s certainly more than one occasion where I’m a (very) poor man’s Stephen King but I’m glad this forms part of my catalogue – it was a necessary process to go through to try and keep learning and improving.
Thank you all for the wonderful questions and for making me part of the 7 year LS itch – you are all truly amazing.