Guest Post by Lyn Farrell, author of ‘The Wacky Man’

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When Lucy at Legend Press invited me to take part in the blog tour for ‘The Wacky Man’ I had not yet read the book. I was told that it was “very hard hitting, fiction but part of it autobiographically inspired.” I was intrigued but also a little nervous given the subject matter (child abuse). The author told me that some agents had rejected it because of the brutality, but that she needed to give a voice to the voiceless, the child/teenager at its heart.

When I finished the book I immediately emailed Lyn to say “Wow!” Yes, it is hard hitting but what a fantastic read (my review is here). I am today delighted to have the opportunity to share with you this guest post which gives some insight into why the author wrote as she did.  

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Books saved me. They got me through a traumatic childhood and ever since have been my anchor and joy in life. It’s no wonder then that fiction holds a special place in my soul. I think the seeds of wanting to write could well have been planted the minute I learned to read the Mr Men books, particularly my favourite, Mr Dizzy. I can still feel the delight I got from entering his world only to shed tears when poor Mr Dizzy was bullied and then, finally, to laugh again when he triumphed. I wanted to create more worlds like this to escape into.

I’ve carried ‘The Wacky Man’ around with me for about thirty years. I ignored it through self-doubt for about twenty then finally gave it a shot and took another ten years to write it. On reflection most of that final decade was spent learning how to write – vast amounts of prose that never made it to the book – so that I could, at long last, transfer what I held in thought onto the written page. I know it’s a brutal read. There was no way around that without changing the essential essence of the book.

The world in this particular novel had to be bleak so that readers get a sense of what it is like to be a battered child. It wasn’t an easy novel to write either. It is inspired by real events, real horror, real violence. Many times I’d be overcome with sadness or anger and have to stop working and there is one section of it that I still can’t read without crying. It needed to be written, not only for me, but for all children who live through the nightmare of violence at home. I’m proud that I managed it. And I’m absolutely proud of my sisters and brothers who have encouraged me since I finally admitted I was writing it (I kept my writing a secret from everyone except my mentor until it was almost finished).

Writing the novel was also difficult in the technical sense. I’ve had sleepless nights and fruitless days where words disobeyed and refused to line up in the right order and when events got muddled up time wise and I had to rework whole chapters to sort it out. I’ve worked myself to exhaustion at times, fuelled by too much sugar and not enough vitamins and I’ve sat for weeks on end without adequate exercise just because I couldn’t leave a chapter alone until it was ‘better’. However, I’ve also been extremely fortunate that the amazing Clio Gray, herself an award winning author, was my novel mentor. We met online by chance and she supported me for the last 2 years of writing the book. She taught me so much about how to hone my writing and when I lost faith she demanded that I kept going. Without her, I wouldn’t have finished it and I certainly wouldn’t have known about the Luke Bitmead Bursary Award.

From winning the award onwards it’s been a wonderfully exciting, and at times surreal, journey to publication. And though I thought I’d only write one novel, I’m currently addicted to writing. The novel I’m working on at the moment is about the healing power of unusual friendship. I hope it turns out as well as The Wacky Man but I also hope it doesn’t take as long. I don’t think Legend Press could wait that long.

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The Wacky Man Blog Tour

‘The Wacky Man’ is published by Legend Press and is available to buy now.

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Book Review: The Wacky Man

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The Wacky Man, by Lyn G. Farrell, recounts in painful, vivid detail the childhood of Amanda, whose vicious father took out his anger and frustrations on his children with a cruelty it is hard to comprehend. The story opens with Amanda talking to her ‘new shrink’, trying to piece together the fractured memories of her past. It is a past filled with fear, yet the bruises she carried were as nothing compared to the emotional damage endured. The beatings she suffered hurt from the outside in. The barrage of words which bombarded her both at home and at school cut from the inside where they festered, damaging the goodness that should have been nurtured.

Amanda’s father, Seamus, came from Ireland where he had a large and sprawling family, many of whom never accepted his English wife, Barbara. He worked in a factory and was regarded as hard working and jovial, seen to be providing a good home for his wife and twin sons. He put up with the banter about his background, taking home the resentment he felt at how he was treated by his peers.

Barbara also resented how her life had turned out. She rarely intervened when her husband beat their young children in the name of discipline. They lived a life on edge, always fearful of Seamus’s violent reaction to the slightest provocation.

As the youngest child, Amanda was born into a family already suffering. She was a noisy, demanding baby but started off wanting to please. She absorbed her father’s cruel taunts, his kicks and fists. Her mother appeared impotent, often drugged up on medication. Despite references to social services, nobody seemed willing to act in the best interests of the children.

The unfolding story is told from Amanda’s point of view but never descends to the style of a popular misery memoir. It is a first hand account of an abused child, their thoughts and feelings, dreams that morph into nightmare. Each incident is recalled as a snapshot from a troubled life, the detail told in a manner that is factually shocking but never gratuitous.

Amanda’s treatment over the fifteen years narrated leaves her damaged beyond anything imaginable. It is hard to see how it could be allowed to happen, yet this too is explained. When the father owns the house and provides the only income how is a woman to leave with three young kids and survive? In the competitive environment that is school, children are inherently cruel to one another. When kindly teachers try to help a pupil who is physically violent and abusive, who turns on them for reasons they cannot comprehend, how much can they practically do? Amanda saw many psychologists but struggled to tell them what they needed to know. Adults and children talk different languages.

It is hard to avoid blaming the wider family for not doing more but perhaps this was a product of the times. These were staunch Catholics, church going people who would frown upon marriage breakdown. What went on behind closed doors was rarely regarded as any business of those outside.

The extent of the damage being wrought was not understood. A story such as this can help counter such ignorance by laying out in raw and harrowing detail the full effect of childhood abuse, emotional as well as physical.

A searing, challenging tale written not to engender mawkish sympathy but rather to promote understanding. This is a stunning, agonising debut from a talented writer.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Legend Press.