This week’s guest is also a member of the Facebook Group We Love Memoirs, so his name is familiar, although I’ve had to check several times to make sure I have spelled it correctly! Over to John.
Hi everyone! Firstly, let me thank Lucinda for inviting me on to her platform. My name is John Searancke and my wife Sally and I live partly in the Canary Islands and partly at a new home that we have just bought in one of the Five Villages, near to Chichester, West Sussex. We moved in during August this year and spent the first couple of months living in overly close proximity to a mound of packing cases. Writing has been temporarily on hold!
I started out in life in the Leicestershire market town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. I was sent off to Prep School at Seaford in Sussex, and then on to Rugby School. After a number of short-term jobs, I settled into the running of a small loss-making country hotel that my parents had somewhat foolishly purchased. My parents’ marriage fell apart and I was left to pick up the pieces. I built the hotel up to become a well-known business over a 35 year career. A second marriage then took me to Lancashire and then, in retirement, to the Canary Islands, where we live in the lee of Mount Teide, the famous volcano that we can see from our terrace.
Lack of gainful employment (other than as restaurant reviewer for a Canary Islands newspaper) as I approached my 70th year impelled me to think about writing a book. Most people reckon that they have a book in them, don’t they? But how many take the plunge and actually do it? I cast around for ideas and came up with the storyline of making the move, lock, stock, and barrel, from the north of England to the balmy climes of the Canary Islands.
What could be more (we thought!) exciting than to drive our 27 year old red Mercedes all the way from England to our new home in the sun? How many times would a 27 year old car break down, and us without a word of Spanish? Would the car even make it?
I soon filled up a manuscript of strange goings-on and many tales of doggy derring-do as our Staffie, Freddie, an RSPCA rescue dog, settled in amongst new friends. Sadly, some years later as I write this, Freddie is no longer with us, but he lives on forever in our hearts and I remember him as my inspiration to get into print.
“Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands” was the result of my efforts. The title is a bit of a play on words, Dog Days relating to old sailing ships becoming becalmed and the latter part being the old name for the island archipelago that was to become home.
My wife came up with the title of my second book, “Prunes for Breakfast”, which is most apposite. I still had the writing bug and, reading through a cache of family letters left to me, detailing family life through WW2, I thought that I could pay belated tribute to my father who had played his part to the full during those heady years from 1939 to 1945, including his landing in Normandy and his later incarceration in a German POW camp.
My father and I had not got on as I grew up, so it was a cathartic experience to be able to tell his story.
A huge amount of research went into the production of that book, and it has latterly been issued in audio-book format. I achieved a dream when it got an Amazon #1 in its category, albeit probably only for a millisecond!
And so, to my third book…
A number of people who read “Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands” mentioned to me that I should write about my earlier life. I have difficulty grasping the fact that this could be particularly interesting to anyone. I realized that I had been self- employed for most of my life, that it was doubtful that anyone would actually have wanted to employ me and that, yes, perhaps, there were some stories to be told – some of them a little bit risqué. So, I am well over half way through this third book, at just over 50,000 words and it should be available in the spring of next year.
Here is the synopsis, the first time seen in print:
John Searancke came to the role of hotelier almost accidentally. After his parents’ marriage fell apart, he was dragooned in, at the age of 22, to pick up the pieces of their new venture, a barely trading country house hotel that had, frankly, seen better days. Not only was it posting an annual loss, but the fabric of the building was crumbling and there was no money left to make improvements.
There were to be battles royal with neighbours not wanting their status quo to be altered, the fire authority who sought to impose draconian new safety measures, and staff who were there just for their pay packets.
Over the years, and with the steepest of learning curves, the grand old building was renovated and transformed to meet the requirements of the modern discerning traveller. Accolades for the hotel and its restaurant were won; together they became a well-regarded destination for a number of celebrities – and those that deemed themselves to be celebrities, but were not. Stories abound featuring idiosyncratic guests, overbearing public bodies, fractured family life and animals of all shapes and sizes. The local fire station next door was demolished one foggy night, guests were frightened by flying dogs and snakes in the long grass, and there were, as befits a country house, strange goings on in the night. Guests checked in who really should not have been seen together, whilst others erroneously believed that there exists an incontrovertible law that the customer is always right.
A rescue mission originally thought of as a year or two turned into a 35 year lifetime love affair with a beautiful old building, turning a young man into a tired and grey haired hotelier; continuous improvements being made on the one hand as funds allowed, but with the stress of business dooming relationships along the way.
Then will come the part that I don’t like, because I am no good at it – the marketing and publicity. On that journey I hope, once again, to have the expertise of Sarah Jane Butfield of Rukia Publishing, to steer me along the way.
Please check my website for progress after Christmas, and leave messages for me…and in the meantime, a huge “thank you” from me to everyone who has read my books. I hope that you may like my next one even more!
John’s books sound like a fun read, and like most of us, he has dozens of addresses! You can find out lots more about him at any of these places. And thank you John for being my guest.
Amazon.co.uk Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands http://tinyurl.com/p6s7eku
Amazon.co.uk Prunes for Breakfast http://tinyurl.com/ntpae84
Meet the Author at Rukia Publishing: http://www.rukiapublishing.com/meet-the-author-john-searancke.html
John Searancke Pinterest profile page: https://www.pinterest.com/johnsearancke/author-john-searancke/
Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/sjbutfield/featured-book-dog-days-in-the-fortunate-islands/
Prunes for Breakfast Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/sjbutfield/featured-book-prunes-for-breakfast-by-john-searanc/
John Searancke Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/john.searancke.1
Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dog-Days-in-The-Fortunate-Islands/867368390009475
Prunes for Breakfast Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PrunesForBreakfast
Troubador Publishing: http://www.troubador.co.uk/shop_booklist.asp?s=john%20searancke
Thank you John for sharing this with us and like you, i shall be going to sit in the sun while I take a look at your books.