Lucinda E Clarke is the author of a series of novels set in Africa featuring her heroine Amie Fish (née
Reynolds). The original book of the series serves (perhaps) as a primer for those unfamiliar with African culture and issues related to endemic corruption (in countries like Zimbabwe) or the simplicity and beauty of bush life among such ethnic groups as the pygmies and Maasai.
She opened our email chat as I read the first novel, over the course of a number of weeks, with thoughts about starting the series with Amie: African Adventure and what she’s learned since.
I wish I could re-write Amie 1 as I’ve learned so much about novel-writing since then. I spend far too much time setting the scene, although as a series it does put things in perspective.
Perhaps this opening is a little chick-litty in a (good) way, in the sense of a…
Since we had purchased a 24 hour ticket for the Vienna HOHO bus next morning we made for the bus stop and got on the wrong bus. We hopped off and while waiting for the bus we wanted, we visited the Votive Kirk.
This was built following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, by his brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian to thank God for saving his life.
The next bus took us past the Burgtheater and then out into the countryside.
It was a pleasant drive, through Grinzing as far as the Klasterneuburg monastery. The weather was cold and overcast and no one got off at any of the stops, possibly because they were unsure when there would be another bus back to the centre of the city.
A third bus drive took us out of the city in the opposite direction, the north east, to Donauturn, which is the park area enjoyed by the Viennese. There is a huge tower there a restaurant and a fun fair. We also passed over the Danube with many cruise boats plying to and fro and tried to work out the where the Danube splits into 4, the river, the tamed river, the canal and the lagoon overflow.
We wandered round the city centre for a while found a great Italian restaurant and that day, despite the bus tours we walked 9.5 kilometres – a gold medal level for me.
By 1944, the eldest princess, Elizabeth had also joined the army, mending trucks and teaching drivers to drive and teaching driving instructors how to teach driving to people who couldn’t drive. I know this is true, because my mother was in the same section and she had pictures of them.
The second of my career memoir sees me returning to South Africa and once more writing scripts for video production. Eventually, I founded my own small production house and made dozens of movies for international conferences, awards ceremonies and … for heaven’s sake I made programmes for anyone who would pay me. Over 15 years I traveled Africa shooting (camera kind) in deep rural areas, meeting chiefs, witchdoctors, celebrities, politicians and ordinary folk. The tales are both heart-warming, sad and educational (did you know some animals are gay?).
More Truth, Lies and Propaganda
Caroline died last night. It was a long, lingering and particularly nasty death – just as I had planned. I had originally decided to kill her by chopping her to pieces under a combine harvester, lots of blood and gore flying everywhere. I could see the birds flying up in protest, small insects bombarded by pieces of her, and the cries of the crowds gathered to stare at the miniscule remains of what had once been a beautiful, young lady. But then at the last minute I changed my mind. Why destroy the peace of the English countryside?
I promised at the end of my last book (Truth, Lies and Propaganda) that I would tell you how I finally got rid of Caroline, so I have described her demise at the end of this book.
Are you curious to know what Caroline had done to deserve a vicious and torturous death? Quite frankly I haven’t the faintest idea. Perhaps she is the heroine in a book I’ve not written yet. She is a marvellous example of how you can do exactly what you want to do if you are a writer, as long as you don’t put it into practice in everyday life.
As authors we control the lives of those we create, it’s one of the perks, but we have a lot less control over our own lives. What was I doing, sitting in a small front room in London, my feet freezing despite the thick woolly socks and furry slippers, my fingers numb as they pecked at the keyboard?
I glanced up at the grey, leaden sky and shivered. I could hear the swish of the cars passing by as their tyres skidded over the wet tarmac and the slap, slap sound from wellington boots as people walked past the house. Years earlier I hadn’t even heard of SAD, the syndrome where you get depressed by bad weather and lack of sunshine. Here in London, I had not seen the sun for several days. I remembered my first airplane trip when we rose above the clouds, and there, to my amazement, was the sun, throwing its beams over the top of the fluffy white pillows in the sky. It was still there, of course it was! How stupid of me to think the sun had deserted us, but that’s the feeling you get when you don’t see it for days and days.
What was even worse, this weather was destroying my creativity. I battled to put words on paper, even though I had a contract to write a series of radio programmes for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. (I shall refer to them as the SABC in the future as I’m far too lazy to type it all out each time).
I had recently returned from living in Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa, fronting the warm Indian Ocean. There, the words flew straight from my brain and magically appeared on the screen, well sort of if you get my drift, I’m using a little poetic licence here.
I began daydreaming about the work I had done in the past, the fun I had with the amazing people I had met. I remembered the excitement of working in the SABC radio studios in Johannesburg, the friends from the Communications Department in Durban and all the wonderful experiences out in the African townships with the crew, while filming a wide variety of programmes.
But that was all over. I had just finished the last SABC programme and I doubted they would ever give me another series, I lived too far away. The classroom beckoned a return to the profession I had trained for decades earlier.
I was not looking forward to it one little bit. I had heard tales of the modern monsters who now inhabited the hallowed halls of learning. If it was bad 30 years before, it was even worse now, ‘Health and Safety’, and ‘I Know My Rights’ had seen to that. It seemed to me that a black belt in judo and other martial art qualifications prepared you better for the classroom these days, than the three years they offered you in teacher training college in the 1970s.
What was worse, I was not living in the best area of London either, so I was expecting the worst if they even considered offering me a job. I’d not graced a classroom for years, and I was just a little bit out of touch. No, I was a lot out of touch. The kids would make mincemeat of me.
Now I’m cheating a little here because in October I had Adrian as a guest in my newsletter, but I just adore the way he strings words together and I didn’t have enough space to include everything – so, here he is again 🙂 Making no excuses!! We all need a good laugh, especially on a Thursday morning. 🙂
Adrian Sturrock is a writer, occasional musician, teacher and ethnic minority (except when in Wales), specialising mostly in observation and unconsidered opinion. He currently lives in Buckinghamshire UK with wife Natalie: his travel companion, best friend and the person responsible for keeping him out of trouble on social media. They have three children between them.
Adrian has been published on www.dcpolitick.com, and excerpts of his poetry/lyrics displayed alongside those of Benjamin Zephaniah in Luton Town Hall (though it is very unlikely that Benjamin is aware of this). He has been smiled at by Madonna and once spent an afternoon watching Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in Barry Gibb’s living room, where David English remarked on his shoes.
He is the founder member (singer/songwriter) of the highly unsuccessful band, God of Small Things, with which he recorded two studio EPs. (There are rumours that some of these songs even sold on iTunes.) His solo sets include the highs of playing to an audience of thousands at Lord Rothschild’s 82nd birthday bash and the lows of having to endure an audience of three elderly women eating soup. Tony Visconti once said of his songwriting, ‘Sorry, not my cup of tea’. Adrian intends recording again in the near future.
I had originally intended to lie to you. I haven’t had a change of conscience on this issue. It’s just that I realise that I probably won’t get away with it. That’s the problem with the general public; they tend to eventually work things out. So I’m afraid that you are now stuck with the truth.
It was never going to be a dramatic lie. I wasn’t about to try to sell you a dodgy time-share or claim to be a kidnapped Nigerian prince in desperate need of your bank details. It was more about the timescale of events in this book. I was going to lead you to believe that this road trip was one single linear journey, a grand forty-day adventure across some of the best roads, towns, cities and mountain regions in central Europe. In reality, the trip was completed in three sections. This is due to the fact that I have a day job to factor in. Life is indeed a cruel mistress.
Between road trips one and three, the Syrian crisis happened, Brexit divided the UK pretty much down the middle and Prime Minister, Theresa May, declared herself the personification of ‘the will of the people’. There have also been a number of terrorist attacks across Europe, including Paris, London, Brussels, Istanbul, and Nice, allegedly born out of perceived cultural or religious differences but really due to a lack of respect between peoples.
Since this book was written, Donald Trump has become the US President and Mike Pence his Vice-President. Not even Mr Disney himself could have anticipated that one day Donald and Mickey would be running the White House.
What had prompted me to buy a sports car—for those who care, the car we used was a Mazda MX5 Roadster Coupe Sports 2ltr Graphite Limited Edition—was a sudden threat of redundancy at work. Yes, I know! One would have thought that I might have opted for quickly consolidating my financial position. I thought I might have considered this too. Instead, my feelings of insecurity led me to a surprise epiphany—it struck me that one can play safe all one’s life and still be screwed over; that good guys neither come first nor last—mostly because nobody is really watching.
Sometimes, the best way to stick a finger up at ‘the man’ is to defiantly indulge in something that excites you. Then, even if you lose, you win. So I bought the car—though I didn’t speak this train of thought out loud to my wife at the time. (Actually, I probably did. A few large glasses of pinot noir can make me a prolific and uninhibited orator. My dancing gets better too.)
As things turned out, while there were a whole series of redundancies at work, my own position remained safe. My first reaction was, ‘Woo-hoo! I’m still standing.’ My second reaction was, ‘Shit, I’m still standing … here!’ But that’s a conversation for another time.
Having bought the car, my mind then moved on to the question of how I could make best use of it. I felt that only using it for the ten-minute journey to and from work and for grocery shopping didn’t really cut it. I needed a proper reason to own a car like this.
‘I was thinking,’ I said to my wife one Sunday morning over breakfast, ‘how might you feel if I was to take off into France for a few days, you know, to get to have a proper drive of the car?’
‘If you want to,’ she said. ‘You not inviting me?’
‘I didn’t think you’d want to come,’ I said, surprised by her response. ‘For me, it would be an exciting drive. For you, well, I thought you’d see the idea of it as just a “bloody long time in a car”.’
‘I can do a bloody long time in a car,’ she said.
‘Okay,’ I said.
So I began to map out our bloody long time in a car.
“Adrian takes you on a journey of story, introspection, and wit; a journey well worth taking”
– Lane Belone, Founder of Increase Freedom
“This read is a lot of fun, especially for travel-lovers and adventurers! I came out admiring how the author communicated the culture of the places he visited through an original voice, portraying his own expertise as an artist. Would definitely recommend to other travel enthusiasts!”
– Casey M. Millette, Author of the Cursed series
Keep up to date with all things Adrian Sturrock by subscribing to his rather lovely website: www.adriansturrock.com Here, you can find out more about the locations in this book, and explore, amongst other things, photos taken during the road trip, together with information about routes and even a selection of hotels used.
Also, follow Adrian on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
His second book, RANDOM: a collection of articles, will be published in early 2019. Well, that is a while to wait, but in the meantime, this one is definitely going on my TBR list. Thank you, Adrian.
Royalties from downloads and page reads of Touching the Wire during Holocaust week will be donated to US Holocaust Memorial Museum At the end of 2014, I published my first historical novel, Touching the Wire, a tale of courage, hope, and love set partly in Auschwitz, a place where courage was essential, hope was a luxury few could afford, and love was a rare shining beacon of compassion in a world dominated by the capricious brutality and hatred cultivated by Nazi Germany.
Much has been written about this heinous episode in modern history that informs and shocks. We like to think that it never happened before and that it could never happen again, but man’s inhumanity to man seems part of our genetic code, and we must be constantly aware of systemic racism, elitism, and religious bigotry that runs in the veins beneath the flawless surface of mankind’s…
Hidden along the Stephansplatz in the centre of Vienna are several little arcades, and I wanted to explore them all.
and then, much to my surprise there was this huge screen outside the Opera House showing an operatic performance. We stood and watched for ages until …
DH spied a Hop on Hop off bus and there was no stopping him – there is no shortage of them in Vienna which is geared up for tourists. We took the complete circuit of the Red route to get our bearings and got off a stop early to visit the Theseus Temple. It’s a rather strange place, even if you ignore the statue of the naked man outside, but what this uh, sculpture represents I have no idea.
By this time we had walked 8.2 kilometres, so time to find food – schnitzels of course and make for bed.
King George and his queen were very brave and stayed in London during the war instead of running away. They did send the princesses to stay in their holiday home in the countryside.
While my first memoir Walking over Eggshells focused on my relationship with my Narcissistic mother (thank you, Donald Trump, for explaining this condition to the whole world) and the effect it had on my life, my other two memoirs focus on my career in writing for radio and television. The first is called Truth, Lies and Propaganda – and I’m a master in propaganda, in fact, I deserve a Ph.D.in the subject.
Truth, Lies and Propaganda
I have decided that tomorrow I am going to kill Caroline. I’d like to squash her flat under a road roller, or push her off the top of the Empire State Building, but I’m not sure how I could get her there, and I suspect Health and Safety have got it securely enclosed by now. I can’t shoot her as I’ve no idea where I’d get a gun, and a knife means getting up close and personal and I don’t want her blood all over me. I could poison her, but then I don’t know very much about poisons, and I really should dispose of her in a more interesting way. I’ve grown to hate her, and I want her death to be lingering and painful.
For months she has caused me unmentionable pain and heartache. I’ve sat up all night worrying about her, and if I give up and go to bed, her very presence has caused me to toss and turn until the early hours. I have to put an end to this. She’s got to go. So, how am I going to dispose of her?
A combine harvester, that’s the answer!
I will mash her to pieces in a peaceful and idyllic cornfield, while the birds sing and the soft wings of the butterflies barely disturb the air. Her screams will resonate as she is dismembered into bite-sized chunks between the rotating blades and her blood spurts metres into the air turning the ripened, golden maize a brilliant red.
Yes, that’s what I’ll do tomorrow.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer. In those early days, it seemed such a glamorous occupation, I so admired those people who could transport others into a land of fantasy, take them back in time to another world or forward into the future on another planet. What was more, you, the writer, were in control! You could give your characters a headache, or better still, break their legs or pop them into a wheelchair, and you could kill them off in so many different and exciting ways.
How about leaving them to be gnawed to death by rats, or drowning them in a vat of vintage wine, or poisoning them with their own birthday cake?
Of course, you can be nice to your characters as well. You can present her with a loving, rich, faithful and successful husband and four adorable children just like those in ‘Little House on the Prairie’, and make her stunningly beautiful at the same time. Now she’s beginning to sound nauseating, and you hate her already don’t you?
It’s time to make things go wrong. Enter the nymphomaniac, blonde secretary with the very, very, short skirt barely covering her knickers, legs that start at her armpits, big boobs and a predatory nature. Now, that’s more exciting isn’t it?
As a child, I had very little control over my life so writing was extra important to me. It was the only way I could escape from the misery of everyday life. I would sit in my room and scribble silly little stories in an exercise book and then run and show them to my mother. She was not kind and sneered at my earliest attempts to influence the world of books – although my grandfather, a reluctant writer himself, was more encouraging.
A huge influence on me in those days was Jo in ‘Little Women’. I can’t remember how many times I read Louisa May Alcott’s story. Jo began writing when she was young, and I cheered for her when she sold a story and bought a carpet for the house, and then another story which helped keep the family comfortable in difficult times while their father was away fighting in some war or other. (At least that is what we were told. He wouldn’t have run off with another woman, would he? Or been serving time?) Jo was the heroine of the family for me, and I dreamed of making a fortune by writing such wonderful books that everyone wanted to read them.
Of course, life isn’t like that, and the usual questions came up as I reached the last of my school years.
“Do you want to be a secretary, a nurse, or a teacher?”
Frankly, I didn’t want to be any of them. My vision of secretarial work was being a lackey to some overbearing, loud-mouthed man in some dingy office. I would be sent to collect his dry cleaning, sharpen his pencils and spend hours thumping away at a typewriter making thousands of mistakes. I would never make a good secretary. Even today, I’m ashamed to say, I can’t touch type, my eyes are constantly glued to the keys, and even at my advanced age I still make thousands of mistakes.
Nursing was a definite no-no. I fainted at the sight of blood, not a prerequisite for a medical career, you’d agree. Even in primary school, they sent for my mother to come and take me home after I had fainted in class. The doctor was called, and I was put to bed for the rest of the day. And what had been the cause of all this? It was the human nervous system. The teacher had told us to open our biology books at page such and such and there, in bright, luridly coloured pictures, we could see what happens when you prick your finger. They showed the path taken by messages as they sped to the brain along the nerve highways and back again, armed with the new information that ‘Ow! That hurt!’
I even feel a bit queasy now just writing about it.
I collapsed several more times in high school, each time they decided to rip open a heart, an eyeball or some hapless animal’s lung. But the results were less dramatic and I was no longer in the spotlight for my disgraceful behaviour. The teacher simply instructed two of the biggest lads to grab me under the armpits, drag me through the door, and prop me up against the outside wall of the biology lab.
So that left teaching. I agreed to become a teacher as it seemed the least daunting career that could possibly be suitable. Not that I had any experience of children, they were about as foreign to me as the pygmies in the Congo. However, I convinced myself that teachers had nice long holidays, and they finished work early at three o’clock every afternoon.
I tried one more time, but my last few whines about wanting to be a writer were firmly ignored, and that was that. Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and Shakespeare would never have to turn in their graves worrying that I would pose any threat to their sales revenues.
As the obedient daughter, I would attempt to pour information into the heads of unwilling and recalcitrant children and earn a proper and respectable living.
Madeliene Black is another of life’s survivors, but I will leave it to her to share her story.
After many years of keeping quiet, Madeleine Black decided in September 2014, to share her story on The Forgiveness Project’s website and she completely underestimated what the response would be.
Many women and men got in contact and explained how reading her story gave them strength, hope, and a different perspective of what’s possible in their lives. The founder of The Forgiveness Project, Marina, often refers to the various people on her website as “story healers” rather than “storytellers” and now she completely understood why.
In March 2015, Jessica Kingsley Publishers released a book called The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, by Marina Cantacuzino. It’s a collection of 40 stories from the TFP website, including hers and has forewords by Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith.
The sharing of her story also opened many doors for her in ways she never imagined and after that, the invitations started to pour in.
What it took for me to forgive
I never intended to forgive the 2 young men who gang-raped me when I was 13 years old. I wanted to hate them forever. As far as I was concerned they were evil, sadistic animals and I wanted someone to kidnap them, tie them up, beat them up, rape and torture them just like they had done to me for hours on end.
But in 2003 there was a combination of events, which I believe released memories that I had locked deep within. My eldest daughter was turning 13, I was attending workshops run by a teacher of life and was studying for a psychotherapy course. The memories of that night started to come back and haunt me again in a way that they hadn’t before and I was unable to block them out anymore.
They were very disturbing; like a porn film running in my mind and to be honest for a long time I thought I was going mad. I mean surely if it was that bad then I would have remembered it? I now know that after a trauma it’s very common for our minds to numb out and shut off disturbing memories, but they can usually resurface many years later, once it thinks you are strong enough.
So I decided that I needed some help to get rid of them. I quickly discovered that I couldn’t get rid of them but that I had to face them and learn to accept what was done to me in order to recover and heal from that night. I learnt that the way in was the way out.
It was during this therapy that my therapist suggested to me in a session that maybe they weren’t born rapists. I could not believe what I was hearing and was completely outraged by what he was saying.
But he planted a seed within my mind and that seed started to grow.
They weren’t much older than I was, perhaps 17 or 18 and I wanted to understand what went so wrong for them? How did they know how to be so violent to another human being? What had they heard; witnessed or experienced that changed them so much?
I do believe that we all come into this world the same way as an innocent baby like a blank sheet and I don’t think anyone is born a rapist, murderer or burglar but that we get conditioned by life, which shapes the path and decisions we make.
A good friend used to be a midwife and she told me that she has delivered 1000’s of babies but has never once met an evil one. That has really stayed with me.
And once I really understood that, I felt for them. In their dehumanising of me I realised that they had dehumanised themselves and were cut off to their own source of aliveness
And the more I thought about being gang-raped and the 2 young men, I couldn’t help but take them into my heart and I started to feel compassion and forgiveness towards them.
I came up with a plan which I call my “best Revenge” many years ago when I decided to become a mother and live as good as life as I can. I chose to be happy but I often wonder what must it be like to live with what you do to another human being?
Forgiveness for me initially was an act of self-love as I had so much blame and shame for what had happened to me. And then it became an act of understanding towards them. I chose to let go of all the pain, hate and resentment I felt for years, which has resulted in a much more peaceful and content way to live my life.
After all they would have no idea if I was consumed by hate, bitterness or revenge and the only person it would hurt would be me and all those in my life. My healing came when I finally faced all the details of what they did to me on that night and learnt to integrate it. I realised that I’m not my body or the things that they have done to me. The real essence of me could never be touched.
And if I am not what was done to me; are they what they did to me?
Her memoir, Unbroken, was published by John Blake Books on April 4th 2017