Please welcome to the blog an author I'm so excited to chat with, Lorraine Pestell. She's here to talk to us about her six part novel serial, A Life Singular. Read on to see why she wrote it and the story behind the story. Parts one through three are out now.
Lorraine take it away!
Hi Lorraine welcome to the blog.
Tell us all a little about A Life Singular.
Thank you so much for featuring me on The Reading Frenzy. What a great name for a book blog!
“A Life Singular” is a six-part contemporary fiction serial which tells the story of a successful rock star writing his autobiography after his soul-mate is fatally wounded by a bullet meant for him. Essentially a love story, the themes woven through the books are triumph over mental illness, the choices we make between right and wrong, and how one affects the other over the relentless passage of time.
Living out their grief in the glare of the public eye, Jeff Diamond takes his two teenaged children on a journey back through their parents’ spectacular life, cementing happy memories of someone so special for themselves and their legions of fans.
Full synopses of each book can be found on http://www.ALifeSingular.net. Parts One, Two and Three are available now, with Part Four due out in March 2015.
A serial novel is a little unusual today.
Why did you choose this method?
I didn’t originally choose to write a serial. When I became serious about publishing, in 2008, I quickly realised that a single novel wouldn’t do the story justice, since the power of my more serious story-within-the-story is in unraveling life’s hidden complexities and not blindly believing that the whole truth lies in what’s on the surface of a person or situation.
Thus, one book became four books, and then six! Throughout the serial, which I intend to finish by December 2017, readers are taken backwards and forwards in time over a fifty-year span and travel all over the world with the celebrities. Also, I’m always careful to describe “A Life Singular” as a serial rather than a series, because the books need to be read in sequence to get the most out of the story.
Lorraine I understand the reasons behind writing the book are very
personal for you but the idea actually came according to your bio, when
you were 14.
What’s the story behind the story?
I love that you phrased the question this way, since I’m fascinated by backstories. In fact, it’s the entire premise of my life’s work!
It’s true that the basis of my finished books stems from an innocent adolescent romance that I started in my early teens, as an introvert already suffering from clinical depression.
However, as my life took some particularly challenging twists and turns eventually leading to a diagnosis of compound Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and culminating in a failed suicide attempt in 2003, I increasingly used writing as therapy through these dark years. The simple love story between a privileged pop star and a bad-boy rock guitarist became my vehicle for exploring mental illness and how people’s behaviour towards one another can have either edifying or devastating effects.
Similar to my protagonist, my own backstory is hidden from view whenever I’m with friends, at work and even with my family, because people suffering from mental illness are regularly subjected to alienation, discrimination and abandonment. Where my own story and Jeff’s differ is that, in Lynn, he found someone who took the time to learn, support and transform her husband’s life.
Statistics in Australia suggest, much like elsewhere in the world, that 50% of the population will experience some form of mental illness at a point in their lives. Most of us, whether we know it or not, are touched by this issue in some form, and through what I hope is a darned good read, I hope to increase understanding and encourage the other 50% to stick by us and help us to thrive.
Was writing this cathartic for you?
Absolutely! I always say that writing is the only place where I can truly be myself. As mentioned earlier, along with my dog, I have found the process of exploring my thoughts and experiences in a work of fiction to be an excellent way of making sense of the world and my place in it. It distances the trauma somewhat and helps me to build a world that I like.
Is the novel meant as a morality tale?
Yes, in a way. There are many questions of right versus wrong scattered through the books, and what seems totally right by first impressions is seldom so clear once the episode’s superficial veneer has been peeled back.
My protagonist sees the autobiography he’s writing on behalf of himself and his wife as “a handbook for life”, so in a sense, there is a moral overlay. It also deals with the concept of reincarnation and the qualities, skills and traits we might take from life to life, but without any religious connotations, I hasten to add!
Like Jodi Picoult and many other fiction authors, first and foremost I’d like readers to enjoy the story and develop a rapport with my characters. It would be an awesome bonus if my more serious messages were taken on board as well!
Ultimately, as Jeff tells his daughter during “A Life Singular - Part One”, ‘We are all in a minority of one.’ I would love to deepen people’s appreciation of difference and the value that appreciating this difference can bring to our lives, rather than shunning those with whom we may not initially identify, thereby causing more isolation in the world.
You also mention in your bio that you work full time.
Is your full time job writing or something else?
I have been in the Information Technology industry for 30 years, a career which has taken me from London, through Europe and the United States, on to Singapore, before eventually landing in Melbourne, Australia, for the turn of the millennium. I wish I could write full-time, but I need to pay my bills and feed the dog!
Lorraine you have two philanthropic organizations that are near and dear
to you and in fact the proceeds from this novel are going to.
What are they and is there a particular reason for your supporting them?
Yes, sales proceeds from my books go to two Australian charities working to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete their education: The Smith Family (http://www.thesmithfamily.com.au) and the School Volunteer Program (http://www.svp.org.au).
I have been supporting several non-profits for many years, having found that volunteering to be another effective therapy for mental illness by diverting my focus onto others. I do pro-bono project management work for the School Volunteer Program, and have been a mentor for high school students with The Smith Family for the last five years. “A Life Singular – Part One” is dedicated to my first three students.
These two organisations do amazing work with very few resources and highly committed staff. A large number of young people assisted by both charities have already been handed a life-sentence of mental illness purely by virtue of their family situations. As I don’t plan a long retirement, the more I can contribute to help reduce the number of at-risk children, the fewer will grow into afflicted adults like me.
When you finish the novel do you plan on another fiction project?
I aim to finish “A Life Singular – Part Six” in December 2016, which will see the story end in contemporary times. I am not ashamed to say that I’m only writing while my parents are still alive, after which time I will do a more thorough job of checking out of this world.
Of course for their sakes, I hope my parents enjoy many more years of health and happiness, so I expect to be writing for a while yet! I have a vague idea of another novel dealing with the plight of aboriginal Australians in the technological age, particularly when machines are learning faster than humans these days…
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions Lorraine. Good luck
with the writing and with your continued personal struggle.
Many thanks for your good wishes and also for featuring me on your blog. I wish you and your readers a happy and successful 2015.
OverviewWhat do you do when you lose the one who gave your life meaning? You write about it. You tell the world how amazing it is to love and be loved by someone so special, what love helps you achieve and how it makes you stronger.
Writing an autobiography on behalf of someone else presented Jeff with an interesting dilemma. Did he make assumptions about what Lynn would have included, or should he restrict her contribution to direct quotes from her letters and diaries? He had their kids to protect, and her parents...
Fame and fortune beckoned. Jeff Diamond was a success, whatever that meant... Fans followed him everywhere, reporters and photographers hid around every corner and journalists recorded his many indiscretions. A whole different world to the downtrodden streets of Sydney's south-west, where vices were satisfied by using people to one's best advantage.