This is my first blog post on this new website, so, I thought I’d start off by introducing you to a book that I have just recently revamped, and is going to be published in a few days.
And just maybe to get the sympathy vote, let me tell you that I am typing this left-handed as I broke my right/write wrist and sustained a few other injuries, whilst holidaying here in Penang, where the pavements are peppered with very large cracks, with a few lumps of concrete strewn here and there, just for good measure, accidents waiting for the unwary. At the time I thought I was being extra-careful, but clearly not enough. Anyway, wrist is in a cast, and facial injuries have healed amazingly well. Do I have your sympathy thus far?
Writing, fiction writing that is, in so many ways, non-fiction with a few embellishments thrown in to entertain the reader…would it were that easy!
Sometimes people ask me where a writer might find ideas to write about, and the short answer of course, is in everyday life. Breaking a limb has opened the door here for conversation with virtual strangers, and rather than just the usual exchanges of hello, conversations have lead to offers of help and invitations to dinner, and with that we learn stories that demand exploration.
The people here are an amazing blend of cultures, some native to Malaysia, some sailors who called into port, loved the lifestyle and stayed. Others are retired and wanting a more laid-back style of living, and others for a variety of purposes that we may never be privy to.
All are part of the fabric of life, all have stories, tales that are so easy to sneak into a book, suitably disguised, in many ways changed, just exactly as I did with my friend Allie!
In real life Allie was a real estate agent, a hugely-successful one, older than my book character Allie, but much shorter and chubbier, and forever on the treadmill of making bigger and better sales. I doubt she ever had a day off! As you might imagine, her efforts made her pretty wealthy, with the trappings to prove it, but she was forever exhausted and in the end, her health suffered.
That came as a shock, and whilst in recovery, she made the comment to me that if only she’d had a crystal ball, she would have chosen to live her life so differently. ‘You simply can’t put a price on health’, she said.
And so the idea of a real estate saleswoman offloading her selling career to become what, I wondered? And then, fortuitously, a friend of mine whom I openly refer to as the smartest, dumbest woman I know, told me she’d visited a fortune teller who was able to tell her amazing things about her family! And so, the seed began to germinate.
I should emphasise here that, whilst we can and do derive inspiration from real-life characters, it’s important that differentiation takes place. No one person should recognise themselves in a writer’s novel, unless of course, previous permission has been granted. Whipping your characters into shape such that they become their own credulous selves is so important, vital, if you are to withstand scrutiny.
My story however would not have withstood scrutiny had I constructed a fairground fortune teller. Allie’s natural class and professionalism had to be ported into the role, and eventually, after much humming and hawing, I decided that whilst her role as a fortune teller was to entertain and enchant, fundamentally she had to have real core values, the willingness and ability to help people, and who knows, maybe bring quality to a much-maligned industry.
Brad, her ever-tolerant husband, is a character in my book. He is a successful architect, but whilst Allie is flamboyant, ambitious and determined, he prefers the quiet life, so much so that he gives in to a lot of Allie’s whims, expensive whims that are predicated upon her substantial salary, for support.
So can you imagine what might happen if all this were to be about-turned by Allie’s bold announcement that she is turning her back on an industry she has thrived on? Can her marriage survive? Moreover, can Brad overcome the shame he feels about his wife’s new career?