Sunday, 21 February 2010

Turkish tales

I received this in the post from Bloomsbury. It is the Turkish edition of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror published by Tudem. It is particularly exciting to have a Turkish edition, because one of the stories - Jinn - is set in south-east Turkey.

Setting is a big part of a story for me. In short stories it is often the thing that sparks the idea. Sometimes I simply want to set a story in a certain location and it is that decision that gets the whole thing started.

I travelled in Turkey many years ago, flying to Istanbul, getting a ferry along the Black Sea coast to Trabzon (the seat of the Byzantine Empire of Trebizond), and then down through the country to Erzerum, Van and then to Dogubeyazit, Diyarbakir and Urfa. To be honest, any one of those places would (and possibly will) make a vivid setting for a story, but it was a little village near the Syrian border that came to mind when I was writing this book.

Urfa, held by Muslims to be the birthplace of Abraham, is where the story Jinn begins and has a scene at the sacred carp pools with a cat is snatching roosting swallows - a scene that was simply drawn from life.

We did not witness a violent death when we went to see the ancient village of Harran with its beehive-shaped houses, but we did encounter some very aggressive children.

One girl in particular took great exception to the fact that we had no sweets to give her (tourists had made sweet-toothed beggars of the village kids) and threw stones as we walked away. That incredible place and those fierce children stuck in my mind and eventually became the basis for Jinn.

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