Whilst I began Linda’s Book Bag just to share my reviews, the blog has evolved to support authors and publishers too so I’m pleased today to be bringing a new to me book, Forever Completely, by a new to me author, J J Patrick, published by a new to me independent publisher, Cynfin Road. Forever Completely was published on 16th September 2016 and is available for purchase here.
Today, J.J. Patrick has written a guest post explaining why he’s a disobedient little so-and-so and how this led to Forever Completely. If you’re offended by strong language I suggest you just check out his book instead, but I think the guest post is raw and honest and full of brilliant advice for writers.
Forever Completely is an unapologetically unique debut by J.J. Patrick, set in a haphazard world of love, psychopathic primates, hodgepodge witchcraft and the apocalyptic end of mankind.
He doesn’t matter. That’s how he feels, writing a bitter note on a Saturday morning. He’s lost his relationship, gone bankrupt and lives in a drug infested sink estate…until he’s shown a vision of the end of the world by two ancient deities.
Join a lovelorn mess of a man as he is forced to face up to what he deserves and save the Earth, with the help of a nice old dear and her collection of eye-popping tracksuits…
A Disobedient Little So And So
A Guest Post by J.J. Patrick
PLEASE NOTE – CONTAINS STRONG LANUGUAGE
There’s an index, a common measure. A consensual method. It tells everyone when people are in poverty – when they can’t live sufficiently by the standards of normal society. There’s also a lot of ‘rock bottom’ quoted. People have been as near to it as they can get. Thing is, and I mean this, there is no near miss. You are either destitute or you’re not.
I have been.
Though I’d never really thought about it properly, having had to convince myself otherwise for the sake of being able to put one foot in front of the other, one night not so long ago came the epiphany. I was destitute and had just dead kitten bounced off rock bottom.
My life has been a bit of a do for the last few years and I’ve never had chance to fully rest and recover from the whole parliamentary whistleblowing and loss of policing career thing. Never had time to balance the books and learn to cope with feeling like I’m in deep space orbit. A lonely kid out on Saturn’s rings, having nightmares about the awful things people do to one another and no longer being part of the coping mechanism which helps you keep it all in check. But life laughs in the face of damage done.
In 2015 the marriage finally broke. We’re amicable now and focus on the kids but to say it was pleasant would be a lie. This year something else broke and left me in a right mess, but it doesn’t matter. It was just a kick in the teeth as I was being kicked in the head.
But none of this is destitution. That started in March 2016.
I’d managed to open a pub and then watched a four-month road closure destroy it. Bad luck. On the 17th of March, I was declared bankrupt losing the business which was also my home. The benefits system does not provide a safety net if you don’t receive the child benefit. No housing. No charitable grants. No hardship loans from the social. I had, at this point, £27 in an old savings account which the receiver promptly took. I sofa surfed at my dad’s, up in Derby. Managed to find a low paid job back in Colchester and the old man lent me the money to get a room. It’s a bedsit, and not a good one. I can’t describe the horror of lying in the dark, listening to the sounds of an alcoholic Scot screaming and urinating on the floor directly above, leaving you to wait for his bodily fluids to seep through the plaster and drip into your space.
Between the 29th of March and the 28th of May this year I was paid £570, out of which I had to pay my phone bill, so I could talk to my kids, and £380 rent for the room. You can’t even get a payday loan when you’re bankrupt and I’d run out of things to sell so I lived on crackers, despite the job being physical, and eventually had to resort to accepting charitable offers from people as the effects of malnutrition set in. I had no body fat at all by May.
There comes a time when you take a look around and realise you are fucked. You reside in a hovel, well below the breadline, and you aren’t living. A useless fucking charity case, you’re just looking for a way to survive. There is no near miss, you are either destitute or you’re not. I was and it’s fucking awful.
So I did the only thing I could, turned to the blank screen and started typing. Within a week I was staring at the rough draft of Forever Completely, and those 30,000 words saved me. By the end of May the final draft was done, I’d sat there and bled in the greatest tradition of Hemingway and when I tentatively sent the manuscript out to beta readers I started to believe the magic in that story could do more than take me away from my soul-crushing surroundings. More than provide a waking dream. I saw a way out and played my usual game of Kipling’s pitch and toss, one of the reasons I get affectionately referred to as the walking embodiment of If.
Forever Completely is, for want of a better phrase, unapologetically unique. I carved out a haphazard world of love, psychopathic primates, hodgepodge witchcraft and the apocalyptic end of mankind. And the narrator, in many ways, is a true case of art reflecting life: He doesn’t matter. That’s how he feels, writing a bitter note on a Saturday morning. He’s lost his relationship, gone bankrupt and lives in a drug infested sink estate. I suppose the story is really about redemption and overcoming self-loathing, with the help of a nice old dear and her collection of eye-popping tracksuits.
I was nervous as hell about other people reading it, almost debilitatingly so, but so far so good. My favourite response so far has been “This deserves to sell a million and be made into a film, top drawer stuff. Reading it was the literary equivalent of smoking a joint, drinking five pints of scrumpy, listening to early Pink Floyd with Syd Barret while watching Saving Private Ryan.”
Writing Forever Completely wasn’t catharsis, not really. It was just survival, plain and simple, and I wouldn’t still be here but for its grace. I certainly can’t say I used it as a device to create order either, the work itself is chaos because life is chaos. Love is chaos. Redemption is chaos. And I’m not exactly famed for obedience or conformity – the chair of the Public Administration Select Committee once described me as ‘Awkward’. My approach to writing is no different really.
The internet is awash with reams of sanctimonious shit about writing. Endless rules about what must be done, how you should behave, what you must show and what you must tell. The fact adverbs will bring about the death of your story and end your writing life, by leaving you open to broad ridicule. Don’t say anything other than said, use everything but said. Don’t use was but also shy away from complicated words, simplify your prose. Cut, slash and burn. Don’t over describe but also see show don’t tell, in the first sentence of this paragraph…Avoid the ellipsis at all costs, stick to the Oxford list, and murder your darlings. The cobblers is almost infinite, in the main self-righteous, and, worst of all, utterly meaningless. So my advice is stop worrying about it, sit down, and write.
There aren’t ten rules. There aren’t any at all. Everything is subjective, the whole industry – from writing, to editorial, to publishing. One day a story will be great, then a bus will get missed, a cat will die, or someone will feel grumpy, horny, angry – whatever – and the same tale will be in a slush pile.
If you are writing to run from people, good. Hide away and build a world you’re happy in because somebody else will be happy there too. If you are writing because you love people, good. Let everyone know why and share it.
Don’t worry about grammar beyond the basics, these aren’t the laws of physics you’re dealing with. If you want to start a sentence with and, do it. Because no one can stop you. And don’t worry about all the technical terms for participles and tenses, if you can tell yourself a story it’ll come out just fine. Literary elitism is the last refuge of literary elitists. Never let yourself be put in a bracket, pegged in a genre. The entire industry around writing has become incredibly lazy in this respect because of a need to categorise for the ease of sales and marketing. Look at the meaningless comparisons beginning with ‘this book is the next [insert the last book which is the nearest thing you can think of over morning coffee]’. It’s dross, so shun it and be proud to do so.
Lastly, after you’ve read this remember there are no rules when it comes to writing. Stop reading all the bollocks and either open a book and enjoy it, or sit down and put pen paper. Whichever of the two you choose, enjoy the freedom because that’s the point of writing and nothing else matters.
Forever Completely is available worldwide now. You can find it listed on all online retailers and wholesalers in hardcover, and in all ebook formats including Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Booktopia…you get the idea.
Meanwhile, my policing and whistleblowing memoir, The Rest Is Silence, is being released on the 19th of November 2016 – the third anniversary of the parliamentary inquiry I sparked. On top of that I am writing two more fiction works, both due in the spring and summer of 2017, and have to fit in a few weeks in Mexico helping them review the way they record and audit murder. It’s hard work, this business of being a disobedient little so and so.
About J.J. Patrick
J.J. Patrick — or JP to those who know he’s nothing but trouble — was born in the New Forest and did most of his growing up in Derbyshire.
He served as a police officer for ten years, resigning from New Scotland Yard having acted as a whistle-blower, kicking off a parliamentary inquiry into the manipulation of crime figures by the police. He received open praise at the highest levels for his integrity.
At a bit of a loose end — largely being seen as an unemployable risk to skeletons in closets everywhere — he opened a pub. Wrestling a road closure, along with his own demons and ghosts, he was bankrupted and lost everything in the spring of 2016.
If you knew him, you’d say that the broken pieces fit together much better nowadays.