Keeping diaries like I have I suppose has helped me to write as I do. Every night, no matter how late it was, I always wrote the day’s events down in ink or pencil.
As a very young lad, my parents took my brother and me for a day trip from Hastings Pier on a paddle steamer to the Isle of Wight. Alas, as there was a polio scare on the island, we did not land, sailing around it instead.
For some reason I made contact with a man called John Harris. Whether it was the famous author or not, I don’t know; my diary for the year doesn’t say. How I got his name is another mystery. Maybe I was talking to strangers or had my pen out even then recording the day. No matter. The one thing is that I recorded what he said to me.
“Always finish each entry by signing your name so no one can later make a comment, for it may be many years later that you open that diary and read the contents and the old memory will be confused and not able to decipher whether you made them or not. Also always give the names a surname as in your life you will meet many with the same Christian name and the time and event will become clouded. The surname of the person locates and places them in time.” The famous Mae West said, “When you are young my dear, keep a diary. Then darling, in your old age, it will keep you.” In my case never a truer word was spoken! Many people ask where I get my ideas to write. The answer is always the same. ‘From life.’ There recorded in my old letters and diaries, is everything I did. The girls I escorted to dinner or dance are described in detail, down to the type of perfume they wore. Many earned a few words on their personalities and moods. My thoughts at the time are also recorded and make fascinating reading now, forty years on.
Many things I have forgotten until I turn a certain page. Then the memories flood back. A certain time, place, noise, smell and especially the company you were with at the time. The brain just needs that trigger, that’s all. Moon Girl, my last novel, is such a case in mind. Mandy I had forgotten about until an entry on two lines reminded me of her, and then I could not stop. In ten days the skeleton of the story was in place; another couple of weeks and you now have it! My best selling novel so far.
“Rye’s Own” March 2008
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