Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Many readers have contacted me lately to know if my own childhood experiences in an Irish orphanage were my own real back-story now written as Marian's back-story in my novel GHOSTS IN SUNLIGHT.
I've got to be honest, the answer is - hell no.
Goldenbridge, where I suffered, is now known as one of the most notorious orphanages for girls in Ireland, and now famous for its unbelievable cruelty to the children it had in its care. So much so that the Catholic Church and the Irish Government itself has now publicly and personally apologised to every one of those children, me included.
But Marian - no, her story was very different to mine. First, she was brought up in an English orphanage, Barnardos , which, I discovered in my research and also when I went down there to Barnardos in Barkingside when writing the book, to be more like a holiday camp in comparison to Goldenbridge. There has never been any complaints about cruelty in Barnardos, and it seems that although the conditions were strange and no substitute to a child for a loving family home, the people working there really did care for the children and the conditions were not bad.
Even now, Barnardos is still doing wonderful work helping homeless teenagers and those suffering with drug problems.
Marian Barnard is quintessentially English in every way, in the nice and polite way she speaks, in the very well-mannered way she behaves, but in GHOSTS IN SUNLIGHT - in the short flashbacks to her earlier life - the only similarity I wanted to convey was the innate loneliness suffered by such children - no matter their age, even the very young children, and no matter how caring their "House Mothers" -- they all know they have been abandoned to the care of strangers, some never knowing or ever finding out the reason why.
In Marian, we also see the vulnerability of these children when they become young adults, their lack of knowledge and savvy in dealing with the smart people in the world outside, and ultimately their innate sense of inferiority from the outset, which only a very lucky few manage to outgrow.
But it surprised me that so many readers were caught up in Marian's story and wanted to know how authentic is her back-story in relation to my own. Marian's story forms only the first third of the novel, so I was less surprised by those French readers who wrote to me about "Jacqueline".
The title GHOSTS IN SUNLIGHT is in no way related to anything ghostly or supernatural, but is a metaphor for the things and people that haunt the back of the mind.
For Jacqueline, it is the shadow of the people and events she experienced during her time as a young and hate-filled teenage sabotage commando in the French Resistance after the invasion of her beloved Paris by Hitler and his Nazis. But unlike Marian, who is a naturally sweet and innocent girl, Jacqueline becomes incapable of feeling any regret for anything she has done in the past, not even her direct and personal cold-blooded murders.
For Marc, the young American who is Jacqueline's son, it is Marian, the girl he truly loves but is forced to leave behind when he is sent out to fight in the Vietnam War.
For Phil, the main protagonist of the second half of the book, it is all of them - Marian, Marc, Jacqueline and all the others involved in their personal lives. His seeking of vengeance is as determined and as cold as Jacqueline's, yet he possesses a lot of Marian's good heart and love within him.
As one critic stated, "It is a multi-layed novel set in London, Paris, Massachusetts, Rome and Stockholm, impossible to sum up in a few sentences ..." And after its first publication GHOSTS IN SUNLIGHT went on to be bought and translated by six European publishers and is currently under negotiation in Japan.
But back to the real basis of my point in writing this - as a writer of true and factional novels, as well as those novels simply with authentic backgrounds such as GHOSTS IN SUNLIGHT, my wish is for the readers to give no thought to me personally when reading my books - I have always believed that the story is all, the characters are all, and the author should simply be a name on the binder.
And finally, to those readers who have contacted me, and given me so many compliments about my work - I send you my thanks and appreciation, and much love.