Romance Promo Central is happy to welcome Lorraine Pestell to the blog! She’s here answer some of our questions and to share about two books of her serial novel, A Life Singular. If these books sound like something that you would be interested in reading, please find buy links below.
* * *
RPC – Tell us about your new release?
Lorraine – My latest release is the second in the six-part novel serial “A Life Singular – Part Two”. It follows Jeff Diamond, a successful celebrity whose wife was murdered by a rogue gunman in Part One, as he pieces together his autobiography. Its themes are love’s triumph over mental illness, making the right choices and the relentless passage of time.
RPC – Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
Lorraine – I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed a career which has taken me all over the world: the UK, the US, various European capitals, Singapore and now Australia. My two favourite cities are Glasgow, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia, both of which are bursting with diversity and a healthy character that doesn’t hesitate to stick two fingers up at the rest of the world!
Melbourne has been my home for the longest period of my adult life, which indicates to me that it has become “home” to a certain extent. However, I do not hold too much store in “home” being necessarily a stationary place, but more a state of mind. I am still searching for my spiritual home.
RPC – Did you always had in mind to be a writer or it just happened?
Lorraine – I have always written, but my decision to become a bona fide author was only made about five years ago. I have produced countless, lengthy business cases and systems specifications during my long Information Technology career, and before that, as a child growing up in London, I loved to dream up backstories to events I saw on the television news or about my favourite celebrities. What drove people to do or say a certain thing? What was going on behind the scenes in that person’s life?
As a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, chronic depression is a constant and I struggle with suicidal tendencies on a daily basis. Writing, along with my old dog, has become a vital escape through which I can inhabit a world that’s more accepting of who I am.
The story for the “A Life Singular” serial has been with me for almost 40 years, and it has changed a great deal as I matured and experienced the good, bad and ugly of life. However, I woke up with a side-plot idea one morning, and since then I have not been able to stop!
RPC – Do you read reviews written about your book?
Lorraine – Yes, I am always fascinated to read people’s impressions about my books, whether favourable or not. I’m lucky that I do not become disillusioned by negative comments, mainly because my writing has been under scrutiny for my entire career. I do my best to understand the reviewer’s motivation for particular comments, and if I believe an improvement can be made, I will certainly adapt my style, characters or plot accordingly.
My goals for this serial are twofold: firstly to inspire fellow sufferers of mental illnesses to rise above their symptoms and make a success of their lives; and secondly to encourage understanding, tolerance and support from non-sufferers for our efforts to live as ‘normal’ a life as we can. Therefore, I always look for indications in my reviews as to whether I am succeeding in getting these messages across.
World Health Organisation statistics state that there are approximately 350 million people suffering from a mental illness in the developed world at any one time. I have experienced discrimination and exclusion in all aspects of my life. Therefore, in a sense, I’m looking to “preach to the unconverted” by using the universal appeal of a love story and society’s fascination with celebrity to reach a wider spectrum of readers who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in finding out about mental illness and how they could help.
RPC – Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Lorraine – Absolutely! Since my protagonist is also a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he obviously shares many traits and symptoms with me. I am not a billionnaire rock star turned philanthropist (yet!), although I am a huge fan of volunteering and am donating sales proceeds from my books to two Australian not-for-profit organisations assisting children in need.
My intention while developing Jeff Diamond’s very complex character was to articulate in detail how different and unpredictable life can be for someone with a mental illness. However, my overriding ambition for my hero is that he learns how to capitalise on the love of his life to conquer his debilitating symptoms.
I hope there is also something of me in Lynn, Jeff’s wife, in so far as I bring understanding and compassion to others as a matter of personal obligation. In today’s world we are all encouraged to be independent, which is in direct conflict to how life really works. We will all be far more successful, healthy and happy in an environment of interdependence, which requires understanding, tolerance and love for our fellow beings.
RPC – Are you a plotter or a pantzer?
Lorraine – I’m 80% plotter and 20% pantzer! When I began writing the “A Life Singular” serial, I had no idea it would end up as six separate books. All six parts exist already in varying levels of completion. Parts One and Two are complete and published, Part Three will be available by June 2014 and the remaining parts will appear in six-monthly intervals. This timing is deliberate, so that the story which spans fifty years will conclude in contemporary times.
I have written the final scene of Part Six, with the apocryphal words “THE END” after it. I now have to fill in the gaps, the ideas for which are already partly plotted into each draft or safely lodged in a separate document called “Extras” J This somewhat OCD-like plotting is partly the fault of my IT background, where everything needs to be logical and in the correct sequence. Yet I give myself a 20% score in the pantzer column because I’m frequently surprised by where my characters take me once I start writing a scene!
RPC – Did you do any research before start or during of the writing of the books?
Lorraine – Yes, I am always researching and fact-checking as I write, particularly around how characters interact and the locations and settings of each chapter. Of course, for the mental illness theme, I am my own “lab rat”! I also read very widely on the topic, to make sure I am not seen to be promoting any disreputable treatment or putting readers in harm’s way.
The most fascinating aspect of a fifty-year timespan is the change in how technology influenced our lives. For example, the story’s earliest scenes are in 1972, before the age of mobile telephones, e-mail and the WorldWide Web; when air travel was beyond the reach of most people and flights took days instead of hours; and where answering machines and video cassette recorders were “high tech” household items.
Then in contrast, I am attempting to project forward to 2016 for the final chapters, where inventions such as Internet-enabled newspapers will be commonplace, all of which need to be taken into account when depicting interactions between characters.
RPC – Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?
Lorraine – My favourite reading material comes from French literature between the 18th and 20th centuries. Each part in my serial is linked to a particular classic novel, since the themes and issues brought to life in these books remain undeniably relevant for today. For example, “A Life Singular – Part One” is based on La Rabouilleuse (The Black Sheep) by Honoré de Balzac and “A Life Singular – Part Two” takes inspiration from Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.
I try to make sure I read a balance of fiction and non-fiction, but I am especially drawn to novels which deal with personal struggles and triumphs. Love has been an elusive commodity in my real world, which leaves me to covet it in my fantasy world!
RPC – How important do you find the communication between you and your readers? Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?
Lorraine – With the explosion of social media, there has never been a better time for authors and readers to develop close relationships. It is undoubtedly time-consuming to keep the various channels flowing, particularly on top of a full-time job, but the benefits are clear and stimulating.
I love to hear from readers, whether face-to-face or via social media. I always make sure I reply to any comments or questions, and like to leave comments on other blogs and Facebook pages. I have participated in a “blog tour” and a “blog hop” recently, which has been very rewarding.
Finding out how readers perceive my characters is always interesting. One former workmate hated my protagonist with a passion until three-quarters of the way through Part One, when she began to understand a little about what makes him tick! Now she’s really looking forward to finding out more of his backstory in Part Two.
RPC – What are your thoughts on ebooks? (i.e. love them, hate them, wave of the future)
Lorraine – As a thirty-year veteran of the IT industry, I am an e-chick through and through, so much so that I become quite annoyed when I find out a new book is only being distributed in print. The convenience of being able to “carry” an enormous number of books on a single device has enabled me to read much more, almost anywhere and far more cheaply.
That said, I was totally unprepared for the thrill and sense of achievement I felt when holding the first paperback copy with my name on the spine, my cover design and my words inside. With an e-book, there is no sense of how “long” a book is, apart from the progress of the ball along the thin, blue line at the bottom of the screen. Seeing my book in physical form, with dimensions and weight, gave me a rush of pride for the effort that had gone into creating it!
RPC – Are you working on any other projects except writing, right now?
Lorraine – I recently returned to Melbourne after five years in Perth, Western Australia, which is the world’s most isolated city. I will be starting another full-time IT management job in a few days’ time, signalling the end of my luxurious but not lucrative writing sabbatical!
As mentioned earlier, one of the other ways I motivate myself beyond the effects of PTSD is to volunteer my time to those less fortunate. I am looking forward to starting this year’s mentoring with The Smith Family, which involves on-line and face-to-face chats with a student from a disadvantaged background. The goals of this program is to encourage young people who lack progressive role models to consider staying in school and planning for university and / or a career, rather than facing the hopelessness of unemployment, early parenthood and even crime.
Because my protagonist’s life would have been turned around much earlier by organisations like The Smith Family and the School Volunteer Program, I am donating sales proceeds to these two charities.
<Scene setting: Back home after the trial of his wife’s killer, Jeff’s daughter has gone to bed, and he’s left alone to contemplate the future…>
That night, safely back in their Melbourne apartment, the widower lay on his bed in the dark and resumed his own life sentence. Running through his mind were all those years during which Lynn had helped him break out of the obsessive “now or never” anxieties which had gripped him in his teens, as a result of the betrayal and abandonment he had suffered as a child. How long had it taken before he started to believe in the new mantra of “There’s always tomorrow” which had been bestowed upon him by his beautiful best friend?
Yet there wasn’t always tomorrow, was there? García had seen to that. Jeff had enjoyed a nice, comfortable twenty-year sabbatical from his old fears, but now the boy with the death-wish was back. For the sake of his children, he knew he must rise above the despair somehow, or at least make a damned good show of doing so. Ryan and Kierney deserved to think positive thoughts about the future, even if he had no interest in it.
Unable to sleep, the loving father quietly walked into the office to switch on his computer and then into the kitchen to make some coffee. One of the e-mails Jeff had missed while away in Sydney was a summary of the various tribute records that were steadily being released by other prominent artists, all keen to acknowledge the influence Lynn had had on their careers. Like her memorial service, the list contained virtually every chart-topping musician, including some from Africa and even a couple from China.
Once again, the grieving husband felt humbled by the love the world had for him and his departed dream girl. He scoffed bitterly at his assistant’s request for approval for these projects to go ahead, and he typed a suitably restrained response to indicate that he could hardly put a stop to people expressing their grief, even though it might be seen to prolong it for everyone else. Meaning me, he insinuated.
The list of senders’ names in his e-mail inbox also resembled a “Who’s Who?” of contemporary public life, and the boy from Sydney’s western suburbs still found himself affected deeply when being counted in their number. All these Very Important Persons had taken the time to write to him about the death of his wife, to express support for the trial and to find out how he and the kids were faring. He couldn’t decide whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. He was grateful for their concern, but mostly wished he could simply disappear for the next six months, until the plight of his family had been relegated to the inner pages of the world’s newspapers and magazines.
The forty-three-year-old leaned back in his black leather executive chair and stared at the ceiling. An eerie shadow of himself moving among the furniture, elongated by the angle of the illuminated desk lamp, conjured up chilling memories of the nights he would sleep, as a boy, behind the piles of contraband stacked up in his family’s living room on the Stones Road, unable to face the short journey down the corridor and past his mother’s bedroom door.
OK. That was enough. What had happened to Juan Antonio García’s mother then? Why hadn’t she arrived off the boat in Sydney with her husband and sons? Why did he even care? Jeff shook himself out of this obsessive train of thought. This runt of a man had killed his wife, and this evening he had received a life sentence to prove it. The widower knew he must learn to accept the guilty verdict as justice. Somehow.
So with what did society expect justice to furnish the partner of a murder victim? The Queen had succeeded in removing one more killer from the streets. Big deal! There were plenty of far more dangerous criminals still roaming free, and with a much greater likelihood of striking again. The Sydney Mafia remained alive and well, for example, Jeff had no doubt.
What would justice have meant to him, if he had been able to choose its form? This was a tough one. Definitely not financial compensation; a concept that never ceased to intrigue the intellectual when reading about other cases. Was a couple of million dollars really going to ease the suffering after losing a loved one? No amount of money could bring his children’s mother back, and the Diamonds had more than enough money as it was. Their financial whizz-kid, Gerry Blake, had seen to that.
‘What do I want, angel?’ the widower posed to Lynn’s spirit. ‘Are you there?’
He inhaled sharply. Before he had even finished his second question, the tingling sensation in his chest made him jump.
‘Hey,’ he said. ‘So you are there. Christ, it’s good to feel you. I’ve missed you. He’s going down. Did you see? I guess you know that already.’
Again Jeff’s left pectoral muscle twitched, making him cry. It was the end of one of the longest weeks of his life, and certainly one of the most difficult. Kierney mustn’t hear him crying, he thought. Not again. She needed her sleep.
‘Come with me onto the balcony, Lynn, please,’ the bereft husband asked. ‘I want to talk to you. Our little girl’s sleeping. She’s so beautiful, angel. So, so beautiful. Just like you.’
Grabbing his cigarettes and lighter off the coffee table, where he had left them with his keys, Jeff slid the glass door open and took a seat at the table overlooking the lights of the northern suburbs. The traffic was still noisy, sixteen floors below, and there was virtually no breeze. Smoking his first cigarette for a few hours, he concentrated back on the subject of justice.
However, within a second or two, inspiration was upon him. Jeff was on his feet again, running through the apartment and back into the office. He rummaged around in a few desk drawers until he found a small voice recorder, checking its batteries and testing it with a few choice swearwords to relieve some tension. There were memoires to be captured for posterity. How had Rose Milne described him and his beautiful best friend in her sentencing statement? National treasures?
‘National treasures, my arse,’ he mocked the judge’s words, as he reinstalled himself on the balcony. ‘Did you hear that too, baby?’
Jeff picked up what remained of his cigarette and rubbed his tattoo through his shirt. How did one document a national treasure? How would he do justice to Lynn’s story? To their story?
‘D’you know what I want, angel?’ he asked into the chilly air. ‘I want a long, lingering kiss that makes my insides burst into flames. I want the soft skin of your naked body wrapped around me, intent on speeding things up while you’re urging me to slow down.’
The stinging was gone from his chest now, but it had been replaced by a dull but pleasant ache. This peculiar physical reaction was most likely only generated by his own mind, but it was helping nonetheless. The little, red light on the Dictaphone flashed regularly to remind him it was waiting for more.
‘I want our kids to have a mother and I want a friend to share my crazy ideas with,’ he continued, in tears once more. ‘Is that too much to ask? I don’t want a man to go to prison for the rest of his life. How does that help the kids? What sort of justice is that? I want our daughter to continue on the journey you were taking her on, towards the lady she oh-so-nearly is, and I want our son to be able to swap tales of Olympic glory with someone who really cares.’
‘I want this endless torrent of words to pour into your detoxicating smile. I want a reason to look at my watch ten times every hour when I’m away from home, to see how soon I can get away. Jesus Christ! I want to stop describing my self-pity and get on with doing all those constructive things we were right in the middle of, angel. I want my level-headed wife to help me resist the temptation to ring our dark-haired gipsy girl every night, when she starts her law degree at Sydney Uni, to make sure she’s safe and happy, and that she still misses her papá.’
With his head in his hands, Jeff wept away the stresses of the last few days. He was convinced he was being heard on some ethereal plain, although the beating of his heart was overpowering any other sensation just at this moment. He carried on, sniffing back the tears and lighting another cigarette.
‘I want my patient and compassionate wife to remind me I’m being unreasonable and hypocritical, when I criticise our son for not coming home for Christmas, just because he wants to chase girls. I long to perform again on stage with our family, and see you smiling with the joy I know it gave you. The same joy it gave me. And Jesus, Lynn… I long to have more of those long discussions over dinner with Jet and Kierney about life lessons in humility. That’s fucking justice, don’t you think? We had those things, angel. That’s what he took from us. That’s what a guilty verdict should buy us.’
And those were the things the Diamonds would never receive from the Australian justice system. This type of compensation wasn’t listed in the bound volumes of laws and legal practices he had seen in Judge Milne’s chambers. Angrily, he switched off the voice recorder and let it drop roughly onto the glass table top.
‘Mañana, angel,’ he cast into the night air. ‘Tomorrow I’ll start afresh. I’ll write our life story, baby, and therein you’ll find justice. En nuestra vida singular. In our life singular.’
Facebook fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/ALifeSingular
Facebook personal: https://www.facebook.com/lorraine.pestell.9
YouTube (trailer): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKN84O5We0o
All parts are available from my website, with proceeds going to charity: http://www.ALifeSingular.net
What do you do when you lose the one who gave your life meaning? You write about it. You tell the world how amazing it is to love and be loved by someone so special, what love helps you achieve and how it makes you stronger.
Jeff Diamond had built a life of influence, adulation and wealth by making the right choices for the right reasons. He lived by the law of reciprocity, a lesson learned on the streets as a teenager with nothing but an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Plagued by the scars of a violent childhood, he created his vision and fought for it. And once he no longer needed to fight for himself, he fought for others.
Yet when Jeff’s dream girl was taken from him and their children by the ignorant act of a jealous misfit from his own home town, the millionnaire realised just how far he had come. Why had he succeeded when so many like him fail? It wasn’t complicated. The secret lay in the endless pursuit of love and wisdom; life’s two magic ingredients.
Now Lynn was gone, he resolved to use his remaining days to account for their life in a way that would inspire young people to make his type of choice rather than García’s.
Then after their story was written, he would be free to go after her, to begin the whole incredible journey over again. Everyone has a life singular.
One. Unique. Extraordinary.
Canada – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00I2CQAX4
Australia & New Zealand – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00I2CQAX4
Blurb: Writing an autobiography on behalf of someone else presented Jeff with an interesting dilemma. Did he make assumptions about what Lynn would have included, or should he restrict her contribution to direct quotes from her letters and diaries? He had their kids to protect, and her parents…
As he worked through the huge amount of material available in the press about their life as it had taken shape, interlacing it with highly personal stories, the widower crafted chapter after chapter of memories, both happy and heartbreaking. If this was to be a true account of their partnership, he owed it to the memory of his beautiful best friend to cover so much more than what was already on public record.
When it came to adding his own reminiscences of those early months, about meeting someone he already knew intimately, Jeff had no difficulty in recalling every single, vivid moment. Entire conversations came back to him, sometimes word for word, rushing through his fingers and into the computer.
Photographs prompted him too, as did the treasured possessions that surrounded him, like the old leather jacket he had received on his twentieth birthday. Lynn had left him shortly after that, just like she had left him now. The pull of being together again was unrelenting, but Jeff hung on to the dream that their life singular would one day resume. Once their story had been told.
Canada – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00HAVJEMC
Australia & New Zealand – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00HAVJEMC