Ballbusters on ParadeHow ideas and images come to mind and coalesce into some form of fiction has always fascinated me. In my experience, writing is less akin to a minutely executed military campaign, with every step and possible eventuality planned and considered beforehand, and more like the process of giving birth – a lengthy period of mysterious gestation, followed by a sudden and painful burst of creativity.

There are plenty of wonderful writers who spend months – years – planning everything beforehand. That’s great, but every writer has to find out what works for them. The current widespread practice of channelling novice writers into the same standardized way of working is wrongheaded. It certainly would not work for me, and as I am by no means unique, it must mean that many students are burdened with preconceptions that stifle their creativity. So find your system and stick to it for as long as it lasts. You can always change it later.

How Ballbusters on Parade came to fruition is even more of a mystery. I’d always been attracted to the North American voice in my writing. US English can be so much more inventive and pithy than its UK counterpart, yet it also shares the mythic resonances of the North American continent, due perhaps to its vibrant popular cultures and vast distances (try singing out loud ‘Twenty-four hours from Falkirk’ – it’s ridiculous).

I’d come across the phrase ‘ballbusting’ and learned it was – among other things – a category of filmed erotic encounter (if one can call it that), which I then went on to watch with grim fascination. So, yes, such things really do exist, and no, I’ve never done it myself, and no, I would not recommend it. Once I’d found it, however, California became the obvious location for the story; specifically, the San Fernando Valley, the centre of the adult film industry.

I am intrigued by the possible combinations of motive and personal psychology that induce men and women to perform in these curious rituals of humiliation and domination. Aside from the usual suspects of need and desperation and the requirements of the job, there surely has to be something else going on. And the same goes for the people who watch these films.

I also liked the idea of someone not really knowing themselves, yet striving for the good life in the best way they know how, and to whom integrity and standards of behaviour are important.

For anyone who knows the source of the title of this story, it clearly adds a little more depth to the tale. Let me know how knowledgeable you are. I’m not saying.