Whilst I will refrain from wishing everyone another Happy 12 months ahead… but I cannot proceed without thanking everyone who responded to my first blog of the year. A departure for me in subject and one fraught with peril. A record readership and engagement and only a tiny number of detractors being a bonus. For such people, who find offence everywhere and anywhere, life must be pretty exhausting and I am sad for them.
Especially gratifying for me is the people who have decided to sponsor a child with The Lunchbowl Network – thank you. Having been to Kibera and seen the work of this muscular charity for myself, I can assure you that your money will be well spent and is very welcome.
Albeit it was longer than my usual blog posts, but worth it because never have I written so few words and with such a lasting impact.
Speaking of which – you might have noticed that my novel, Open Links was republished this week – and again, thanks are due to the people who have bought it already. We have sold half our stock already and next week, I will start signing, dedicating and dispatching them to places far flung. An unusual story about a game that constantly defeats me and yet I love it still.
I used to struggle when asked the question – “What type of books do you write?” Because I never really knew the answer.
Are they funny books? Some of them are but others, not. And even then, funny is so subjective…
Thrilling? Capers? Romantic?
But then an answer occurred to me which I think encompasses all six of my books. Or the five novels at least.
I loved fairy tales when I was growing up and now I write fairy tales – but for adults. Moral tales that hinge on a compelling story and why I write so few books – because stories worth telling are not easy to come by. Or for me, at least.
Open Links fits this category perfectly. Just ahead of I,Gabriel it is my most imaginative story. As I wrote it in 2014 and threaded in to the story my character ‘Ben’; his association and dependence on the Anthony Nolan Trust presented an opportunity to donate the proceeds to their cause. It’s republication this week has already raised enough money to put more than a hundred new donors on to their life-saving register – which is a worthy reason to buy a book – and it’s a bonus if you enjoy the story also. I hope so because I certainly enjoyed writing it.
Speaking of books, on arriving home from Kenya last week, we were all dog-tired as we processed from the plane to baggage reclaim for perhaps the most depressing wait in all humanity. There are so few up-sides. Post-holiday blues. Back to work or lack there-of. Tired. Grubby. Over-spent. Over indulged. Frets and worries all about us and compounded by…
Funny thing the voice and how distinctive it is. How the ear can discern a person almost as quickly and as accurately as the eye – as happened last week at Heathrow – when planes empty out passengers spanning the globe and all merging in baggage reclaim halls.
I recognised his voice immediately – and even though I haven’t seen David Walliams for many moons now – probably over twenty years, I stopped to say hello. Us comedians have a special bond – borne out of the fear that is being funny for money and its inherent insecurity.
When David and I gigged together back in the day – I imagine that neither of us ever imagined a future that involved writing books. And both of us writing fairy tales (me for adults and David for children).
By his own admission, David was never really a stand-up and quickly realised that his comedic talents lay elsewhere – and promptly establishing himself as one of the most successful funny people of his generation.
His books have sold over 25 million copies and counting. Last year, he out-gunned J K Rowling in book sales and is often compared to Roald Dahl, my favourite author growing up.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being a perfect story by my reckoning. Funny, exciting and a moral outcome with the unlikely Charlie prevailing over the brat children. Brilliant stuff and no surprise that it made such a great film. The Gene Wilder one and not the disastrous Johnny Depp version, obviously.
Similarly Holes by Louis Sachar – for a such a short book – it is a truly magnificent feat of storytelling. Layered and protracted with a powerful message and outcome – and one of my all-time favourite films.
Eclipsed only by It’s a Wonderful Life – for me, the perfect story – and not something that Open Links can ever get near – but it is my best shot and not a bad effort either. Not quite an 'eagle' perhaps but close enough for a certain 'birdie' – and given my scant golfing ability, this is a rare indeed.
Please don’t let this golf analogy put you off Open Links. It is written deliberately accessibly and this edition now has a glossary of terms – a helpful suggestion by Jenny, a key member of The Brothers Trust team.
I congratulated David on his stellar career and his achievements since we last met – which seemed to bemuse him. As though, this hadn’t occurred to him. Or more likely, the relative nature of life and how things quickly become normalised.
More difficult for David to share in my career highs to be fair and no hard feelings either. Instead he congratulated me on my progeny – which I get totally get and I smiled.
We wished each other well as we headed for our respective carousels to wait for our dirty washing!
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