Just what was the motivation to write my first novel at the age of 70, well it isn't because I’m a pensioner who doesn’t have anything else to do. It was more to do with it being deliberately autobiographical so that my children, grand children, my relations would remember me when I was dead and gone.
Of course I could do it, because surely writing a book is quite simply putting into writing the ultimate form of communication between people, and that is of course conversation. Just think, so much history of what we know now is word of mouth and in the case of an autobiographical story it would be all to do with the quality of my memory. Therein lies an issue.
When visiting a supermarket I am unable to remember what I am supposed to buy unless it is written down. I cannot leave the house without forgetting something. I put things down and can’t find them and I am seriously prone to leaving every cupboard door open. My wife despairs. Conversely, ask me what I was doing at a certain time a few years ago and I have no problem in resurrecting details from the past. This may be due in part to the fact that I keep a diary, and with a fine long term memory I can remember so much of the past without the crutch of my daily written words. I also maintain that 90% of the time, whenever someone with whom I'm conversing mentions a title to me, be it a verb or a noun, a place or a thing, I can come up with an appropriate entertaining true story or experience.
Now combined with the fact that I’m loquacious and have spent a life time talking to students, as well as latterly addressing lots of people in my role as headmaster, I do secretly fancy myself to be a bit of a raconteur. I am very happy and confident talking in front of an audience without a hint of glossophobia. Many of the tales I have told people over the years have generated comments that, 'I should write a book about my experiences.’
A lifetime in education has given me a library of stories to tell, but it’s the stories I told about living in the unpredictable third world that have been the most fascinating. Yes, I could make an unrelated list of experiences about my life, but a book needs some structure, and therefore I needed the stories to be part of the same timescale and to be somewhat congruent to make them into a coherent book.
I solved the problem by deciding to talk about my many funny and exasperating experiences in Africa, concentrating on the two years my wife and I and our new born daughter spent in West Africa, and this is what my novel, ‘A Brush with Chaos’ is all about.
I have tried to follow the advice of the author Steven King, who wisely said, ”Write as though you are talking and telling a story to someone you know’ It is the mantra I have followed. Now my book may not be a literary masterpiece, but it will be, for me, a miraculous memoir. As for the reader, well, I am sure, on reading it, their jaw will drop, they will give a shake of the head, it will be hilarious at times and then hopefully they will give it the ultimate accolade by saying, it was just like sitting down and listening to a good friend telling me an interesting and a really entertaining story.'
Some statistics 122,000 words. 280 pages. 30 chapters. 13 months to write and 4 re-writes.