Just returned from having an amazing time at the Gibraltar International Literary Festival where I was lucky enough to be invited back as a speaker this year. The picture above was taken at the Garrison Library gardens. I was about to give an interview on my latest book, Dear Dad, and this is a venue that’s redolent with meaning for me, being the same place where my wedding reception was held, back in 1979.
The interviewer commented: ‘This book is different to your other books. It’s full of … something.’ She was searching for the right word. ‘Hope, I think? Would you say it’s full of hope?’
‘I think it’s full of magic,’ I told her.
Now, if you think about it, magic is a funny old thing. We go through life waiting for those few, precious, ‘magical’ moments where we can feel transported by our own joy; by a sense of wonderment and awe, a sense that – whatever it is that’s going on in this world – there is more afoot than we can explain. Even when we go to something like a ‘magic show’ where we know that what we’re about to see is all smoke and mirrors, we still go, because we want to recapture that sense of wonderment and disbelief. We WANT to be shown something that seems logic-defyingly impossible. We WANT to be dumbfounded by an experience so amazing that it blows us away. Even while our rational mind is furiously trying to work it all out, we want to believe. We want to connect.
During my stay on the Rock last week, I had a magical experience when the organisers took five of the authors plus guests out for a boat trip to the Gorham’s Cave complex. As trained biologists, my husband and I were excited. We knew many Neanderthal artefacts and remains had been found in there. The weather was perfect for the trip on this particular day, the sea unusually calm on both sides of the Rock. As we reached the point where the international tankers are anchored off the coast of Gibraltar, the captain turned our little boat back towards The Rock and killed the engine. 120,000 years ago, we were told, all the sea that now surrounds The Rock – i.e. – the landscape I grew up with – hadn’t been there at all. Instead, it had been a Serengeti-type of terrain where wild hyenas, horses and antelopes roamed. And the Neanderthal cave-dwellers were not the ape-like ‘missing link’ we’d been led to believe, but simply another tribe of humans. Standing there on the gently swaying deck of the boat looking back on the levant-shrouded Rock, I had an epiphanal moment.
It was as if time had stopped, shrunk away.
And I felt a deep connection. To a people who vanished over 30, 000 years ago! My husband felt it, too. Maybe it is because these ancient people lived and prospered and died on The Rock which is such a deep part of our own psyche. Maybe it is because – just for a few moments – we were transported to a new place of connection. The truth is, that it is in the most ordinary, everyday things of life, that we can access true magic.
I think there is a part of us that constantly clamours to reach out to connect. I believe this is what stories are really all about. Both for the reader and, I think, the author. In Dear Dad, it’s the child Adam who galvanises the two main protagonists to reach out for the connection which they all long for. ‘Real’ magic is about allowing your mindset to be flexible enough to allow in the impossible. Children know this. I believe the ‘child’ part that still resides in each and every one of us still knows it, too.
In the last generation or two our definition of what constitutes ‘family’ has shape-shifted beyond what many of our grandparents would recognise. It can be a tough call for one parent to do it all alone … and many tough adjustments needed when families extend through divorce, remarriage and so forth. Yet the need for a child to be loved, recognised and wanted hasn’t changed at all. I wanted to write a book about what it means to be a dad in our modern world. How that doesn’t always have to mean you’re the biological parent. How a guy who acts like a dad, advocates for you like a dad, loves you like a dad can sometimes really BE your dad in an even more significant way than the man who you happen to share your DNA with. And so my latest novel, Dear Dad, was born.
This story is about how one determined 9-year-old kid, Adam, overcomes every obstacle he meets, to get his ‘family needs’ met. In the process, two lonely and heart-wounded strangers who come together to help him, fall in love … but life’s never quite that simple is it? Along the way, a big lie has been told. It’s a lie that could scupper every chance each of them has for happiness.
Writing this story, I’ve enjoyed so much the chance to re-see things from a child’s point of view. Children can be so positive and upbeat about life. They don’t let little things like ‘reality checks’ get in the way of dreaming big dreams. They trust. They have faith! Let’s face it, when you’re four-foot-something or less and have no power whatsoever in the world, you’ve got to have faith that somehow it’s all going to work out – how else would we ever make it? Having had six children of my own, I’ve learned that kids have all the answers we once had, you see – it’s just that we’ve forgotten.
Dear Dad is out now on Amazon as an eBook & Paperback: Here