It all began when the name ‘Kirkwood Scott’ popped into his head and now an Aghalee man has just published his first novel - ‘Skelly’s Square’.
In the meantime author Stephen Black has been on quite the journey to see his work in print: “Writing a novel is easy, getting it published is the hard part.”
Stephen (49) is married to Fionnuala and the couple have three children, Adam (17) Hannah (15) and Rebecca (12). He has always had an interest in writing - right from his days at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, where he studied History and English.
Even back then - some 28 years ago - he was jotting down ideas for stories from his rich creative mind.
Over the past several years his hobby has stepped up a gear, thanks to a blog he has been writing - A Fractured Faith. There he and his wife Fionnuala and his daughter Rebecca have been giving flight to their creative writing and commentary pieces.
Stephen, who works as a civil servant, explained: “This is my first novel. About three years ago the name Kirkwood Scott popped into my head.
“He’s very loosely based on my life in Belfast in my 20s. Kirkwood is a bit of a loser really, a university graduate in a dead end job who’s just been dumped by his girlfriend. He is still coming to terms with the murder of his father, a police officer, when he was younger.
“Kirkwood suffers from OCD and it manifests itself in a number of routines he has to carry out, if he doesn’t terrible things will happen.
“He has a voice in his head and he has given it a name - Augustus Skelly, the colonel of the toy soldiers he played with as a child.
“An ancient evil is uncovered on the streets of Belfast and is about to emerge.
“Skelly is the manifestation of that evil and only Kirkwood and two of his friends - Harley and Meredith - have the power to stop it.”
Kirkwood has long believed the voice in his head has simply been a figment of his imagination until he encounters a homeless woman on the street (Meredith) who is drawing a picture of Skelly in a notebook.
It’s only when Kirkwood, Harley and Meredith come together that they can defeat this evil force.
The fantasy novel has supernatural and paranormal elements but also tackles more earthly issues such as mental health, homelessness, disability and addiction.
While none of the characters in the book are based on real people, Stephen has taken some turns of phrase from people he has met and the character of Harley was inspired by his daughter Hannah.
Harley was disabled as the result of a road traffic accident - Stephen’s daughter has spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
On the subject of getting his work published Stephen said: “I had to send out a pitch to agents and publishers.
“I went for it and pitched to New York and London agents and got some good feedback.
“That encouraged me and I tried other publishers,
“I had my fair share of rejections but in the space of a week two small publishers accepted me.
“Writing a book is the easy bit, getting published is the hard part.”
Stephen’s book is available online and in print through Amazon, on the Fractured Faith blog or directly from the author.
Stephen Black’s blog - FracturedFaithblog.com - has developed quite an online presence with 11,000 followers on Wordpress,
It covers a wide range of subjects but is essentially a showcase for Stephen’s writing.
However, his wife Fionnuala has also produced a series of articles for the blog.
Stephen is a keen runner and that also features on his blog.
He explained: “I write about my running a lot but it can be a hotch potch to showcase my writing.
“I can be walking down the street and see something which gives me an idea for a story.
“My wife Fionnuala has encouraged me to do this. She’s the power behind the throne. She keeps me on the straight and narrow.”
On the blog they state: “Hi. We are Stephen & Fionnuala Black. We are a Christian couple who live in rural Northern Ireland with our three children, Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. Oh and not forgetting Charlie the border terrier. We have been together for 23 years and married for 16. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride and we hope this blog will offer comfort to others who are going through similar experiences. We hope you enjoy our tales.”