The twenty-two stories in this collection were written over a period of about fifteen years. Most of the stories first appeared in magazines and anthologies. Some of them have won awards, while others were placed in writing competitions.
Among the themes that arc through the stories is the fraught relationship between parents and their children. In particular, the strained relations that too often exist in the father-son bond, as the growth of the child coincides with the decline of the man. This theme I explore in respective stories from the alternate points of view of the father or the son.
In That Man’s Father, two young men from completely opposite social backgrounds, compete ostensibly for the attention and approval of a father figure unknown to either character
Contrastingly, in the title story, In Fields of Butterfly Flames, Pa kidnaps a child to replace one of the two adult sons he has lost before the story opens. This is Pa’s misguided attempt at reliving a life that went wrong.
In His Father’s Son, a middle-aged man, with children of his own, struggles to find the forgiveness for his own father at his father’s funeral service.
And then there’s High Flyer, which first appeared in the Sunday Tribune as a shortlisted story in the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards, in which a young man whose parents have recently divorced, is given a top of the range car as a token to ease the father’s conscience. Tragic consequences ensue.
In retrospect, it is unsurprising that the father-son theme takes centre stage in quite a few of the stories. My own relationship with my dad, particularly during my adolescence, was far from ideal. There existed between us a tension I never quite understood. Perhaps we were too alike, each in some subliminal way disappointed with the other’s limitations.
The characters in the other stories are likewise disillusioned with themselves and their lives and are undergoing personal identity crises. Stricken with loss and grief, or searching for an elusive something they believe they have lost or never had – they deceive and lie to themselves and to those around them. To escape from who they are not and seek out validity, some have left their birth countries or have returned home, only to experience further alienation.
Discombobulated with his life and marriage, the young doctor in Adios España,Adios has left his US homeland to pursue an un-American Dream. But his failing marriage, along with an encounter with a member of Catalonia’s independence movement, shatters that dream. And from that broken dream emerges a nightmare.
Forever Chasing Pigeons takes a couple back to a Mediterranean city where they lost their child two years before. This attempt at healing the terrible wound in their lives and marriage by confronting the horror fails. Confronted with the memory of that stunning summer morning, which turned quickly grotesque when their little boy was snatched away forever, succeeds only in widening the rift between them.
But take heart, amidst all this loss and disappointment there is hope and redemption. Woven into stories like Of Men and Dogs and On the Seventh Day there is the enriching power of forgiveness. And then there is the relationship of the characters with nature and animals. A bond which reconnects them to the land, gives them a sense of place, which grounds them.
This is the case for Raz and his young pals in The Hanging Tree. In their struggle to make sense of a world where new discoveries shock and astound, the impact of those discoveries is tempered as they move together through the fields of childhood. With the hot sun on their faces and ripened fruit pressed beneath their quickened feet, they goad and tempt each other to face and embrace those new discoveries as they bound headlong into the future.
Ruler of the Roost, which was first broadcast as a shortlisted entry to the Francis McManus Award, is set on a family farm. Ten-year-old Lewis, the central character, is a gentle boy. Not the tough, outdoors type his father wants him to be, the unforgiving rural environment, along with his father’s constant bullying, transform him into something he isn’t. Or perhaps always was.
As to the act of writing itself, I have always been creative. As a boy and into my teens I spent hours every week sketching and painting. Not until I went to college and researched the lives and works of the playwrights George Bernard Shaw and Sam Shepard did my creative drive turn to writing. I compiled theses on Shaw and Shepard and found that I could express myself through words in a way I could not through charcoal, pencil or paint. Although the discipline of concentrating on minute details when drawing has, I feel, honed my powers of observation and enabled me to describe convincingly when writing. My time in college also deepened my interest in literature.
Besides studying James Joyce and French writers such as Camus, Proust and Gide, the writers I am mostly drawn to are Steinbeck, Hemingway, Jack London, Raymond Carver, Orwell, and Cormac McCarthy. These are the writers, I believe, more than any others, who have informed my writing. And, as I sometimes write fantasy, Hans Christian Anderson would also be an influence on my work.
(c) Steve Wade
About In Fields of Butterfly Flames:
In this literary anthology we encounter stories of psychological suspense.
Ostracised by betrayal, isolated through indifference, gutted with guilt, or suffering from loss, the characters in these twenty-two stories are fractured and broken, some irreparably. In their struggle for acceptance, and their desperate search for meaning, they deny the past. Some abandon responsibility, others are running from something or someone. Some flee their homes and their homelands, while others return home, only to find themselves even more marginalized and estranged.
Order your copy online here.