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Breathing Life into My Manuscript

My Mumma was always a big reader, as was my auntie, and the two of them introduced me to books and developed my love of reading. Mum had bookshelves of her favourite authors, most of them historical novels written by the one author who wrote under three different names. In amongst those books was the occasional Barbara Taylor Bradford novel and these are the ones I selected from the shelves and buried my nose in. I got lost in the stories on the pages, connecting with the characters and feeling everything they felt as if it was happening to me. I believe that is where I developed my own writing style, writing in the first person and telling the story of the main character. After reading those books over and over I started exploring other genres of adult fiction, moving away from young adult fiction while I was still in my early teens, searching for the stories of women living their best lives. Those were the characters I felt connected to and dreamed of both becoming, and creating. I had started to think about writing my own novels, the characters, storylines and plots swirling around my brain and itching to be put onto paper. When I was fifteen I started to work on my first novel, writing about the characters and what was going to happen to them on a piece of A4 paper, ripped from my school binder. Over the following year I put my novel down on paper, hand writing the entire thing in notebooks and on loose pieces of paper. When it was finished I took my handwritten manuscript to my Nana’s house to type it up on my ancient typewriter, which I still had, storing it at Nana’s. I fell in love with the characters I created, crying at the completion of the manuscript. I felt silly for crying then, not realising that it made sense. These were my babies. I had created them, put them through the wringer along the journey they travelled and watched them emerge as wiser, older and smarter humans. I felt sad that our journey together had come to an end, but also excited that I could start working on my next story, which was already forming in my mind. I had recently gone through my first broken heart, which inspired me for the second book I wanted to write. I completed my second manuscript in mere months, the heartfelt words pouring out of me. When I was in my twenties I gifted a printed copy of my first manuscript to my best friend, who read it then loaned it to her mum and then her grandmother. When they all told me they loved it but hated me for making them cry at the end, I was ecstatic. I knew my words had had the desired effect and for the first time I truly felt like a writer.

Hostage, my soon-to-be-released novel, is the third manuscript I’ve completed, but the first I decided to publish. I chose it to be my break-out novel because it has sentimental meaning to me because of the time in my life when I completed my manuscript. In 2020, while the rest of the world was falling apart due to covid, my world was falling apart due to cancer. My Mumma was diagnosed with bowel cancer in June 2018, only five days before I lost my father-in-law to cancer. Mumma fought hard and was determined to beat the prognosis the doctors gave her, but by early 2020 it was becoming too much for her. I stopped working and spent the last few weeks with her every day, taking care of her while Dad was at work and spending time with her, making her laugh where possible and cherishing each moment I could with her. We lost her in July 2020. Before I even had a chance to comprehend that Mum was gone, my husband was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, bone cancer, only three weeks after we lost Mum. Only eight years before he had fought and beaten lymphoma, a blood cancer, so we were not expecting him to suddenly be struck down with another type of cancer. His illness was very quick, a very brutal and cruel type of cancer, and after only 106 days, I lost him as well. During the days I spent keeping Mumma company and caring for her I finished Hostage, the novel I had started years ago but not gotten around to finishing. The day after she went into palliative care I finished the final paragraph and printed off the first chapter, taking it to hospital the next morning to show her that I had finished my book and was dedicating it to her. After losing Mumma I planned to work on the final draft of my manuscript then start the publishing process but was suddenly thrown into a tailspin when Jacko was diagnosed. My life became a whirlwind of days and nights at the hospital for chemo, radiation and pain management for his illness, countless ambulance trips and caring full-time for a man who only weeks earlier was full of life and energy, the biggest larakin you could imagine. Spending every moment together became the focus of my life, so when he was up all night, unable to sleep because of the pain he was in, I was up with him. We sat together at our computer desks, watching videos together, or next to each other, staying in each other’s company for every moment he was at home with me, and not in hospital. That was when I started to re-write, staying up all night to work on my final draft. After Jacko succumbed to his illness in December 2020 I was a lost soul, up all night long as I nursed my broken heart and tried to rebuild my life without the man I was supposed to grow old with. My writing and music became my nightly support system, after my closest loved ones had returned to their homes after spending the daylight hours with me. While listening to New Kids On The Block, my first loves and lifelong favourite band, I edited my manuscript, staying up till dawn most nights as I worked on the rewrite. In early-2022, when I had finished going over and over the novel until I was pleased it was ready, I finally reached out to Ocean Reeve to discuss my publishing journey, which is where I find myself now.

Working on Hostage has been my touchstone over the last two years. During the hardest moments of my life, as I struggled to breath some days and had to find a new path for my life, I turned to writing to escape from the world around me and to try and find myself again. Writing has been a lifelong passion for me and something I’ve always dreamed of doing professionally, but I was never brave enough to take the first step to make it happen. Both Mumma and Jacko knew how much writing meant to me and watched me as I worked on my manuscript, so sharing it with the world feels like they’re finally getting to see my finished product. Releasing a novel that has such sentimental value to me has been nerve-wracking at times. I’ve felt vulnerable and exposed for sharing my writing with the entire world for the first time. But seeing how fragile life is and how everything can suddenly take a turn has made me determined to live my own life with no regrets and overcome any fears of failure or rejection so I can take a shot at making my own dreams come true. When I get to the end of this wild ride they call life I want to look back on my own ride and be able to say, ‘Hell yes, I lived a good life and had some fun along the way!’

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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