‘The Romantic’ began with the somewhat cartoonish idea of a poet who has never been in love, and so can only write very bad poetry. My hero, Martin, came to mind pretty easily, a chump who deludes himself into the idea that he’s a fine poet, and that he’s enjoying what for most people would be a terribly lonely existence.
From there, the story kind of took on a life of its own. Posed with the problem of how Martin survives without working (or publishing his poems), it occurred to me that he might be living off compensation he has received after an industrial accident. Researching accidents, I came across a report of a man who lost an arm after being dragged into a printing press. A missing arm seemed to make sense, for Martin, a symbolic extension of his lack (with the extra irony of his being maimed by the publishing industry). It also worked nicely, as the story unfurled, to serve as a reality with which he would be confronted.
The character came to mind pretty easily because Martin is, largely, me, stubborn as I am about being a writer when there are plenty of material reasons why another career might offer more security, less stress, and a bigger car. I too find new ways to lie to myself every day.
Because he represents, perhaps, my more vulnerable side, I wanted to be mean to him, and it was inevitable that by the story’s end he was going to be crushed under the weight of his own delusions. When the realisation hits him that his poetry has had an entirely different effect upon Aoife, a girl he meets, than he had hoped and expected, I am like her: part of me wants to laugh at Martin, and the other part to apologise.
— Colin Corrigan