What Came Before

With my next novel, To Be Frank, on its way and currently doing the rounds of the agents, I thought I’d remind readers of what has come before.

Recently, when I’ve bumped into people emerging from Covid restrictions, they’ve asked if I am still writing. When I say I’ve been working on my fourth novel they look surprised and interested and that’s great. More than once they’ve continued to say that they’ve only read one or sometimes two of my books and I’ve wondered why? It seems odd when they’ve made such a point of saying they’ve enjoyed my books. I thought perhaps a reminder of what they might have missed would be helpful, along with an honest analysis of my own thoughts on the writing.

My first novel, There’s No Sea in Salford, is the story I really wanted to write, based on my time working as a final year medical student for 3 months in Sri Lanka in 1978. In many ways it’s my favourite story, but also the most naive, written before I’d discovered what a novel really needs in terms of technique and structure. I am still trying to learn!

How They Met Themselves came about after the short and sharp success of TNSIS when I was determined not to be a one trick pony. Here I used experiences taken from a wonderful journey around California, made with three good friends a year after we’d all retired from our professional careers. Rather than give away tales of what we got up to, I invented Max as the main protagonist and allowed him to make a similar journey, even though he and his friends were at least 30 years younger than us.

West Coast Highway

In HTMT readers come upon the fictional character of Max for the first time, as a young traveller taking a gap year after graduating from university. He and his eventual wife reappear in my next two books, Lawn House Blues and To Be Frank, so it’s well worth meeting him if you haven’t done so already. Books two, three and four all stand alone but a few of the characters crop up again from time to time, so watch out.

Lawn House Blues is set much closer to home in rural Suffolk and goes into more depth, looking at families, relationships and secrets from the past. It revolves around an old country manor house and the owners’ struggle to maintain it in the modern world. Snape Matings even gets a mention.

Snape Maltings, Suffolk

I consider LHB my most accomplished novel to date and I love the breadth and detail of the characters within the story. In fact I love the characters so much that a number of them are developed further in To Be Frank. Frank’s story is very different and moves between the countryside around Lawn House and the Suffolk coast.

To Be Frank is still the working title of novel number four and the title therefore might change. Covid times have given me time to rewrite Frank’s story many times so I hope the end result will be interesting, believable and enjoyable for future readers. I am not planning to rush to get this published, so you might have to wait a little longer and meanwhile simply be satisfied by my little WordPress drip feeds, or perhaps read or re-visit the previous books.

All three of these books shown above are available on Amazon as paperback and kindle editions.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lawn-House-Blues-Philippa-Hawley

Ian Richardson, Alison Parker, Dettra Rose, Philippa Hawley

        So pleased to have been able to contribute to ‘The Practice Of Solitude’.

Each author wrote 25 words which were then combined by the editors and made into a 100 word piece. I’ll let you guess which 25 words were mine.

100 Words Of Solitude

Grasp

Posting ruddy face mask welts and lockdown haircuts
we reconnect through screens, rehearse our daily routines, and wait
for the vaccine cavalry to restitch reality.

I scroll, I tap, I ‘Read More’. Graphs, quotes, opinions, read more!
I need to salve the agitation simmering deep.
All I find is distraction.

Pixilated Mum. Close up ear on upside-down phone.
Tiny Mum in zoom cubicle. Disembodied voice.
One year, more, she can’t crush me in her arms.

I weep in my bunk, in my hand a tangerine
with a dusting of green where once
a stalk joined it to tree and family.

Ian Richardson has been reading books and comics for a long time. Eventually, inevitably, he began to write and gained confidence to share his work. He lives in Scotland and enjoys walking his dog and exploring local countryside with camera in hand. His micro poetry can be found on…

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Meditation

Sri Lanka 1978

I know a married couple, now retired from working in the NHS. During those years they were unable to take enough time off together for holidays of any length. Early retirement was the answer, while they were still fit to travel and explore.

Ten years on, they still live in the same, warm house, with generous garden, where they spent too little time during the decades of long hours on duty. They think how blessed they are compared to many, despite lockdown isolation and missing grown-up children and baby granddaughter 70 miles away. They exercise most days with a morning walk then lunch together before parting company for the afternoon.

She goes to her study, reads or sits at her computer sorting folders. She might look at photos of shared adventures or pictures of the children, before she writes. She tests her imagination and exercises her writing muscles as a tutor on a writing course once advised.

He on the other hand meditates or at least practises his version of meditation and it’s one to recommend. He puts his feet up, closes his eyes, then travels in his mind to the destination of the day. For an hour or so he takes himself to a favourite country, often revisiting a special hotel in Sicily or good friends in the Netherlands. On a cold day he’ll ski in the Aosta Valley, Arabba, Cervinia or Wengen, or maybe even visit the geysers in Iceland.

‘It’s Wednesday, I’m off the Grand Canyon,’ he might say, or ‘Thursday today, I think I’ll go to Vietnam and Cambodia.’

At teatime he reports on his journey and they remember pasties de nata in a square in Lisbon, waffles by the River Scheldt in Antwerp, ice cream with a view of Etna in Taormina. They’ll recall wines they’ve tasted in different countries and think of opening an Italian Fiano or Austrian Grüner Veltliner for supper.

Not a bad way to spend the days until lockdown is done and vaccines given, I think. I plan to take up meditation myself tomorrow, I fancy a trip to Sri Lanka.