GUEST POST WITH THE AUTHOR OF "RAGE OF HEAVEN" SALLY STEPHENSON
In September of 2011 I woke up one morning and found my dad’s bedroom door was open, this wasn’t unusual, he had been sleeping funny hours and I was used to him being awake in the middle of the night and asleep during the day. Today however, was different. I popped my head round the door at what must have been around 6am on a Saturday (apparently this time does exist!) and saw him getting the last things ready in his suitcase for his holiday to Italy. He was happy, making jokes as normal and making fun of himself. I wished him a happy holiday and for some reason felt compelled to tell him that my brother and I were okay – we had been squabbling recently and my dad wasn’t happy – he didn’t seem to believe me but I assured him, wished him a safe journey and returned to bed. I got up a few hours later and he’d already gone to the airport.
I would never see him again.
I phoned my dad around lunch time to let him know that a letter he had been waiting for had arrived. It was a quick two minute conversation.
It would be the last time I ever spoke to him.
I received a text message early Sunday morning, my dad telling me he and his friend Ann, had arrived safely in Italy and were settled into their hotel. I didn’t reply because international texting was expensive.
It was the last text I received from him.
16 hours after receiving that text message, 11pm UK time, there was a loud bang on the door. It was the police. My father had died in Italy a day after arriving on his vacation and mine and my brother’s world was turned upside down.
I had begun writing Wildflowers a month before the passing of my father, the months afterwards it was forgotten. Not important enough to be worrying about. Then November came, National Novel Writing Month – a month in which writers attempt to write 50,000 words by the end of November. I needed something to save me from the grief. So I wrote.
What came out of that period of Wildflowers was the book I’m now promoting. What came out of the darkest period of my life, was work that I had never expected. I channelled my grief into my words, I made my characters suffer because I was suffering, I put my pain into them and in turn they saved me.
I sent the book out to agents, two showed interest but ultimately passed. I decided to self-publish and phenomenal things have happened in just a month. The book is selling, it’s found a place already in an independent bookstore but more importantly it’s dedicated to my father. His name is in a published piece of work.
My dad never knew of this book or what would happen, I can only think he would be proud. I moulded Edith’s relationship with her father on the one I had with my own and so she became a character I emphasised with most. She felt the most of my pain and while I can only apologise to her, I’m going to write her as becoming stronger, more powerful, because that’s how I’m learning how to be, it’s how I’m shaping my writing to be. And so out of the darkness of last year hope is emerging and finding an outlet that has saved me a thousand times over.