FIVE WORDS THAT MADE A LIFEBELT

The final part of the apocryphal story about writing Taking Leave. 2.30 pm on a boiling hot August afternoon on Patmos. Having reached meltdown with the laptop computer, spider bites and stage fright, JT runs from his house into the port and smack into revered elderly American poet, Robert Lax. Read Parts One and Two.

‘Nothing broken!’ Lax called out cheerfully, slumped on one elbow on the ground. I help him to his feet and brush some leaves from a nearby bench. He sat down, breathed in and out, impossibly adjusting his woollen bobble hat on his head and tightening the scarf around almost translucent skin.

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IF YOU GO OUT IN THE AFTERNOON SUN BE SURE OF A BIG SURPRISE

Part two of the apocalyptic story of writing Taking Leave on Patmos in Greece, or how after a bumpy ride I heard just what I needed to hear from the sage, wit and poet Robert Lax.

August 13th 3.30 in the afternoon. Patmos, Greece. Temperature – hot to boiling.

It was like being in a submarine – Das Boot where all the emergency hooters and alarms are sounding… this is all a disaster, this is all a disaster, this is all a disaster, this is all a disaster…..

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FIRE, MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN?

There are many books about how to write your first novel. Few discuss the blind terror aspect of the activity. Due to a grand bouffe of tweets, text spaghetti requesting how I wrote Taking Leave, here is an apocryphal short story about writing that book. Episode One.

Writing your first novel is never easy. Not when you are worried about winning the Booker Prize before lifting a  pen to write the first paragraph. I chose to write ‘Shedding Skin’ as it was then known, on a Greek island situated in the middle of nowhere. Athens was a 12-hour boat ride away, Turkey six hours and London 48 hours, with a very good tailwind. The date of my arrival was auspicious – March 17th – St Patrick’s night. I had decided that if I was going to write the book I needed to sever my connections with the UK and go as far away as possible from prying eyes of friends and family.

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