William Wall: hearing an odd remark, seeing the story
The author on his writing roots, from a childhood illness to inspiration as a habit of paying attention in a certain way – not just to conversations or events but also to art
William Wall: For me all writing is important. I work as hard on emails as I do on poems. I edit my mobile phone messages – I even punctuate them and have been known to use semi-colons (sometimes correctly). Photograph: Harry Moore
I hear voices a lot – chance remarks, odd ways of saying things. Sometimes it’s a casual phrase that I hear in a different way; I hear the oddity of it rather than the meaning. These stories are full of those oddities: “I bought a heart”; “For fun times phone dodger” (from the inside of a toilet stall in Dublin Airport); “interacting with the ghosts”; “It was sad but sooner or later I just know this shit is going to change for me” etc.
It’s important that the person who says it is a stranger because I don’t need complete stories, I need something to set me thinking. “I got the death certs for the crows”, the opening of Paper and Ashes, came from a conversation overheard on a train. The person who said it was sitting behind me. I hadn’t heard the beginning and the remainder of the conversation was drowned out by the announcement that passengers for Limerick should change. The person who said “I got the death certs for the crows” was for Limerick. From Limerick Junction to Dublin there’s plenty of time to weave a story around a phrase.