Several years ago, I moved away from my usual type of novel which is something with a mystery, a puzzle with, I hope, a surprise ending, to the story of a family. I suppose an Aga-saga, if they still call them that! The action takes over the two years of the life of an extended family of cousins, six men from four families, whose ages range from early forties to mid fifties. The inspiration came from my interest in music (to listen, follow and dance to, not to play myself!) and how bands from any genre can be incredibly close, like brothers or sisters, but who have huge rows, splits, fallings-out. Real families do this too – often triggered by an event which one would have thought would have made them closer, an accident, a disaster, a death… With my own family I am so fortunate that awful things which have happened have brought us very much closer… however, I only have to look back to other generations, in far off times, to a different branch of the family to see how an argument, careless words, unkind comments can split a family so they are riven for generations…
So… this story has become tremendously long, because it is really five stories, pulled together by the death of grandma, who held the cousins together:
- Antoine, the oldest: his beloved brother Eduardo died when he was only twenty and Antoine has never really got over the loss. He made a disastrous marriage to Shane who is a woman with a formidable personality and who definitely has ‘issues’. they have three sons
- Garry and James: the black sheep of the family – Garry lives in Spain, and probably has a very dodgy past and present life-style. He was married to Ruby, who has become an ‘adopted’ member of the rest of the family; abandoned by Garry she brought up their fours sons, alone but supported by the cousins. James is unmarried and has had a series of girlfriends all of whom the family have thought ‘unsuitable’… until he meets up with Ismene who everyone loves and hopes will make something of hopeless James!
- Nick and Tyrone: the twins, who are between Garry and James in age. Tyrone has three rather troublesome daughters with Carla, Nick has been married twice,and is currently with the exotic Zofia, who keeps her past concealed.
- Alex: the youngest; his parents died when he was little more than a toddler and he was brought up by grandma. He has been married three times, and with his present wife has three little girls; however, when he was only fifteen he got the Spanish exchange student at his school pregnant, and was left with a son, Noah.
This is not just the interminable chronicling of the different relationships of the characters… there is action too. Ismene is being harassed and stalked by her ex-husband and after he is hospitalised in a failed bid to kidnap Ismene, his unbalanced sister Francine takes over the harassment. James has been pulled into the clutches of an eastern European criminal gang who traffic people and smuggle anything else including drugs and weapons. Tyrone leaves his family to go on a pilgrimage, one daughter is alone and pregnant, one daughter is struggling with eating issues, the third has been drawn into the same gang James is involved with and has been imprisoned by them in a house with other young girls…
I did think of writing this as several different stories, but then there wouldn’t be the same tension and double plot lines running parallel to intrigue the reader (I hope!)
Goodness knows how Dickens and Tolstoy wrote their novels – mine is nowhere near the scope or range of theirs, and I’m writing on a PC not with a fountain pen on paper! It is really hard to juggle all the characters and story-lines, and as usual in the first draft I have massively over written – this story is about three times the length of my ordinary novel. I am sure when I go through it properly (once I have finished the basic spell-check) I will lose a third of it, maybe even a half… but it will still be very long!
So back to the story, provisional entitled Lucky Portbraddon – which is the name of the family, Portbraddon – and which reminds me, I must explain why the title is ‘Lucky‘ Portbraddon!
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