My autobiographical novel will be published on 21st of October. That’s what it’s called – ‘The Amazingly Astonishing Story’. Because it is.
It’s a strange feeling, to know that my perspective on my childhood will be shared with whoever wants to read it. Whoever. The good, the mad, the bad, the ‘other’, the pals, the family, whoever. Strange, eh? Although I find it really difficult to talk in conversation with one or two, if I’m facing fifty or a hundred people or a thousand, or if I’m writing to the whole damn world …. easy peasy! Hold me back!
The person in charge of publicity at the publisher’s office has asked me to write 500 words about the book and why I wrote it. So, here goes, I’ve copied you in:
One of the questions writers grow used to, and tired of, and flummoxed by, is “What makes a writer?” and another one is “Where do you get your ideas from?”
The answers I give are usually apologetic shrugs followed by lame and unsatisfactory suggestions, because both those questions are unanswerable. Until now. From now on, in answer, I can point to this book and say “I think the clues are in there.”
The book tells, of course, just the beginning of a long and eventful life. It’s a start, you could say.
Dickens was onto something when he said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That’s life. And my life has been an adventure from first cry right through to now and Covid, losing my mother at 7, living through a crash landing at Orly Airport, nearly drowning in the Med, surviving a boating disaster in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, coming off a motorbike on an icy road, spending Christmas Eve in a small tent in a gale on Beachy Head, going through a divorce, being broke, marrying again, becoming a Mum, finding faith, winning The Richard Burton Drama Award, being widowed at 43, and going on from there to have a successful and happy career as a dramatist.
This morning, at 71 years old, I stood on the beach, deafened by the roar of the wind, under a wild and beautiful sky, and it was as if I saw myself, on this small stretch of sand, on the edge of an ocean, and then as if I saw beyond and beyond – to the billions of stars and suns and moons and the wildness of the cosmos. My eyes saw only waves and sky and wheeling gulls, but my mind saw everything. My wonderful mind. Your wonderful mind. Our minds, eh? They reach out to each other. That’s what my book does. It reaches out. I hope it finds you.
I wrote it for many reasons, but the essential hope was to show that from the coldest of beginnings, life can spin into something rich and warm and wonderful. To say that there is more to every life than whatever we are going through at this moment, that the future can be tumultuous and exciting, and that, even in the middle of loneliness or need, we all have wonderful internal worlds, and we can carry on a funny, loving conversation within our own minds, to more than ourselves – we can reach out to the eternal and wonderful life force. We can meet that life force. We can meet God.
A rich life is made up of the best and the worst, both the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow. I am very, very blessed to have had both in great big spadefuls and I wouldn’t change a single day or hour of it, and I wouldn’t miss out on meeting any of the rich characters in all the crazy episodes along the way.
So, should I have called this autobiographical novel “The making of a writer”?