After the release of my tenth novel, Beyond the Fight, I felt ready for a break, a sabbatical if you like, in order to be open to what might be next. I had pretty much told the last story I wanted to tell from my own family history. Though I had been doing more research on my husband’s side of the family and had sketched ideas for a beginning story in that line, I was also conscious of needing time to focus on promoting and selling the books I already have before launching into another manuscript.
Our planned trip overseas seemed to be perfect timing in this process, as when I’m away I’m able to focus on the new experiences my husband and I have prepared for and my mind is free to observe, enjoy, be inspired and challenged by what we see.
However, just before we left I received a phone call from a man I had met on several occasions and heard speaking about his life story; one of a troubled, abandoned street kid to a successful business man and dedicated Christian. He had a great passion and a sense of calling to spend his retirement helping young people who were living the life he had once known; without hope, without purpose. Bill’s reason for calling me was to ask me if I would help him write his life story. Members of his family have been encouraging him to write his story, to document how his vision and determination to build a residential and foster program for troubled youth came into being, and how he has been able to restore health, hope and purpose to many lives. Bill had decided it was time to have this written, but knew he needed help. I was humbled and honoured that he wanted me to help him write his story. I agreed to think about this while I was away and contact Bill when I returned.
Many years ago I wrote the story of another amazing woman who was in her nineties and similarly encouraged by her family to write her memoirs. While I was away and praying about my answer to Bill, I was reminded of what a great privilege it had been to listen to and record that dear lady’s words, to put her story into an interesting order and help get it into print, if only for family members and friends. I was also reminded that each time I speak about my novels, which are based on my own family research, I encourage the listeners to write down their own stories in some form, as they are such a valuable part of history, with depths of wisdom and experience from which many people can learn.
This is me on a mountain top in Andorra. An inspiring place to contemplate a decision.
I’ve come home from overseas with a sense of privilege and excitement about embarking on this new venture. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that Bill approached me at the time he did, and so I see this challenge as coming from God. It’s an opportunity for me to do something special for an inspiring man and also to respond to a new challenge for myself. I’ve agreed to take this journey with Bill, to put on hold my writing of fiction and enter into this quest of writing non-fiction. Bill’s story must be told from his perspective. It must be his experience, pass on his motives, learnings and wisdom. No filling the gaps with fiction, no creatively moving the story on by adding some extra drama, as I’ve allowed myself to do – and thoroughly enjoyed – in the writing of my novels.
Bill is a delightful man, with a beautiful heart, a wealth of experience, and a deep desire and determination to leave a legacy, to bring hope and freedom to those who've been rejected and damaged. Having made numerous attempts to record important events, achievements, challenges and battles, he had a great pile of papers waiting for me when we met this morning to begin. Together we prayed, looked at the fragments and discussed the possibilities, what Bill most wanted to achieve with this book, who he wanted to read it and how we would go about sharing the journey.
Bill is now in his late seventies. There’s a lot he could say, much more than one book can contain. So I must follow his deepest desires, help him search out what God wants him to say, and help him get his message and story into print so that it’s gripping, challenging and moving. (which it is).
I have mixed feelings. I feel honoured to have been asked to undertake this project. I feel a great weight of responsibility. I want this to be all Bill hopes for. I want to do his story justice because I believe it’s a story that should be told and could deeply affect the lives of many readers. I feel excited about doing something quite new and also apprehensive about my capacity to do it. Mostly I’m trusting God to enable and lead me. I’m not sure this counts as a sabbatical, but it will be an interesting, if not daunting, change.
I know some of you are essentially writers of non-fiction, and some have turned to writing non-fiction after having written fiction. I’d been pleased to hear your advice, to know what you see as the major differences between these two genres, the essential dos and don’ts as I begin what I suppose is a ghost writer's adventure.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Two of her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream, were re-released by EBP. Next of Kin was released last year by Rhiza Press and the sequel, Beyond the Fight, was released this April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.