This week I was tasked with a professional job which to everyone else looking in – might seem like a genuinely appealing prospect.
A dream job, even.
Certainly, it has lot of pros…
I can do it from home. It has no start time. No commute. Teas and coffees on tap. There is no boss. My dog dutifully looking at me, not making a sound, yet emanating pure love for the one who feeds her.
And the task itself is also something to behold – a project fully two decades in the making and one encompassing my entire family.
Last summer, I spent two days in a sound booth in Oxford reading and recording an unusual memoir I have written. The story of happy serendipity about a kid who confounded all the odds and now finds himself scaling dizzy Hollywood heights. And unbeknownst to me at the time, my doomed foray to becoming a screenwriter has finally borne fruit by completing a book about father and son – and for good reason, is called Eclipsed.
But as euphoric and heart felt as the story is, this doesn’t mean that the task of listening to the 12 hours of recording is an easy one.
Because I am not a man who loves the sound of his own voice. Quite the opposite. I almost cannot bear it.
I would say that I am naturally quite a shy person. This might seem unlikely given that I speak on stage for a living. But people who are able to see humour and articulate it in to ‘funny’ are not necessarily attention seeking types. I prefer to write than perform. I am certainly a quiet man and I have long struggled to watch or listen to myself.
My voice is clipped and high pitched. And proper too and almost posh which belies my background.
My engineer, Richard Woodhouse of Electric Breeze studios in Oxford where I recorded the book promptly edited all the reels of Eclipsed and excitedly fired them over to me many moons ago. The idea being that I would listen, approve and publish. But the prospect of listening to myself for so long is horrendous, so I promptly kicked this task in to the long grass. And pushed the publication off in to the future with an indeterminate date. You know the kind? When I get to it… Who knows, maybe never
But all procrastinators eventually face a reckoning and mine duly arrived this week when a British newspaper of high regard got in touch, expressing an interest to interview me.
I explained that in July I have a new novel being published to which I’d say that their interest quivered. I followed this up with news of a forthcoming audio version of Eclipsed and immediately the quiver became a flutter.
The journalist is polite and sensitively he suggests they might like to wait for the latter project – it being about you-know-who. I get this of course, but rather than missing an opportunity to promote Made in England, a rare thing happens when finally, I have a good idea – and suggest that I might publish them both at the same time.
Although this means that I now must approve these damn recordings. Recordings of my voice reading my words – out loud – about me and my family.
Even Narcissus might raise an eye brow at something quite as introspective and self-absorbed.
But that said, Eclipsed is a bloody good story – even if I say so myself plus because there are few things in life less bearable than faux modesty.
So I waited for the house to be vacated (with the exception of my beloved dog) and I finally got to this task…
Listening to the recordings now – and particularly the sections of Tom and I in conversation about the book and reminiscing more generally, one thing strikes me immediately…
…that, as formative an experience filming The Impossible has been for my family, Paddy has no recollection of it at all. And of course, the same applies to the protracted Billy Elliot period which preceded it – and it strikes me just how fleeting life is and that we must all do better to cherish it by living in moments and not the future.
I’ll let this point settle a moment because it’s rather profound (for me, at least) – and it might even warrant a re-read because my prose might not be quite up to it.
If nothing else, Eclipsed is a great chronicle of the most important period of my boys childhoods and it will serve as their memories when their own hard drives start to falter. A good thing then and certainly worth the considerable hours I have spent putting the damn thing together.
So my plan then… (which is subject to change!)
…to publish Made in England on 3rd July and also the audio book, Eclipsed, read by Dom Holland and in conversation with Tom Holland.
WARNING – listeners to Eclipsed will need to endure my voice for many hours but this experience might be salved for being interspersed by the younger tones of Tom, who I am aghast when people tell me he sounds just like me.
Made in England is available to pre-order now.
Its prequel, Only in America is available as a paperback (but heads up that it will also free on occasional days between now and July)
Eclipsed Audio book will be available via dominichollandbooks.com – where you can also join my Book Club for exclusive snippets, free books, short stories and other life changing possibilities…