Everyone says that the best comedy comes from the darkest of places. And that gives me hope for ‘The Toast of Brighton’ – shameless plug alert: this is my upcoming novel – as the past few weeks have felt pitch black. And yet, I believe the words, chapters and story match the hopes I always had for my writing. Maybe that old adage holds true.
When first I heard the word cancer in connection with my name, I was sure the writing would stop. The last thing I felt able to do was create something to might make people laugh. In a good way. At and not because of. In this dark corner, I thought, how will I do it?
Writing romance with one ball
One of my very first (wrong) thoughts about how testicular cancer might impact my life, was that I might find it hard to write everyday ‘blokes’. Would I give in to temptation and deprive them of matching testes?
Around the time of my surgery, cruel fate saw the Fanning pet dog to undergo a similar (though more comprehensive) procedure. 24 hours later and he was humping cushions, so I figured if he could get over it, so could I.
But then my upbeat, coping with it all shell cracked.
It coincided with writing the last few ‘The Toast of Brighton’ chapters. And as any writer will confirm, the last steps of the ‘dance’ often force the storyteller to take stock of how characters have changed. It’s time to deal with feelings.
To make decisions for my main character – Evie – I had to inhabit her world. And I’ve dealt Evie a terrible hand. She loses her job, husband and home in the space of a day, and after six years as a sober alcoholic, craves a drink. And revenge.
I’d left Evie facing a final challenge. Something that – if handled right – would bring positive change. In technical story-telling parlance,she was at the turning point.
Raw and real
To do these final chapters justice, I had to tap into her feelings. I had to reach the same dark place as Evie. The whole cancer thing meant I was already in no mood to bounce like a new-born lamb, so that wouldn’t be hard. But should I add to how I felt. Or wait a while, pick it up when I felt better. dark as the story had become, there needed to be some comedy.
And then – please forgive my first world problem – I found myself in Waitrose, staring at fresh-baked bread and swallowing tears. Something took over, and I never saw it coming.
I found what I needed to bookend Evie’s story.
The tears would dry. There would be humour in the words.
A happy ending?
I jumped the final hurdle and ended the story on what I hope is the right note. I agonised for a week about a chapter where everyone appeared for one last bow, happy in their new roles. And then, I deleted it
I want the reader to decide what happens at the end of this story. Evie finds a way out, she’s offered what she’s almost sure she wants, but the decision to jump remains hers. Or yours if you buy the book – second massive plug, sorry. It’ll be out late summer.
Now let’s see my editor shred the damn thing.