Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Welcome to my new Anatomised author blog.
This blog forms part of a brand new beginning. My second novel Anatomised is published this spring, which I’m ecstatic about. Mainly because I never thought I’d live long enough to write it. At one point, when I was suffering acute symptoms of Lyme disease, I thought I’d never again be able to write anything longer than a shopping list! So, this is a new chapter in my life, and I’d love it if you came along for the read.
Although it sounds logical, it is very difficult starting at the beginning, isn’t it? Be that the first draft of a short story or the opening chapter of a novel, or meeting someone for the first time. You feel as if you must be on your best behaviour, not make a fool of yourself, not say anything that might embarrass your nearest and dearest - though strangers can become friends, and then almost anything goes…
Where have I been for so long?
Here, there and nowhere is the short answer. Other than moving house and getting to grips with a new novel, the last eight years of my life have been spent fighting and recovering from Lyme disease; one of the most dangerous and fastest-spreading tick-borne
illnesses in the world. Apart from a few appearances at Whitstable Literary Festival (Kent), interviewing novelists like David Nicholls and Philip Hensher, I have been out of the public eye, expending all my energy on battles I nearly lost, in a war I never wanted. The bomb-blasted Lyme roads were long and winding. I’ll be candid: many times, for many reasons, I believed all roads led to 'destination death' (see my website for a summary).
In some ways, having made a substantial, yet not complete recovery, I feel like Lyme Lazarus. I’ve come back from the dead, with stories to tell. Or rather, one big story: Anatomised.
What’s the blog about?
At the very beginning of my novel, there’s a definition of the verb anatomise: “to cut apart; to show or examine the position, structure and relation of parts; to study something in detail in order to discover more about it”. I hope to do this with a broad sweep of subjects, and not just Lyme; whatever arises, is relevant or appeals. In other words, examine, study, discover more about life.
The body of my novel is made up of many parts, held together by three core elements: the physical, the psychological, and the metaphysical or spiritual; all the things that make us who we are. As I discovered with Lyme disease, and explored further in my writing, extraordinary things can happen to human beings in extremis. Scarily, some of the scenes in Anatomised are inspired by true events. As a semi-autobiographical novel, I revisited and relived harrowing personal experiences, but also some happier ones. I can genuinely say it was a work of love, blood, sweat, laughter and tears.
In sickness and in health
I hope this blog will help raise awareness about Lyme disease, but like my book, it has a broader remit. Yes, there will be discussion of the illness, its devastating effects and the need for change regarding diagnosis and treatment (in fact, my next post is a review of a new book called Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change by Mary Beth Pfeiffer). Importantly, though, this blog concerns itself with wider issues of chronic illness, mental health and wellbeing. Lyme is very significant, but it’s only part of the story. I will define it, but it won’t define me.
There will be updates regarding my novel, of course: news, reviews, press etc. Writing is my trade, so there will be a natural bias in this direction. As an author, editor, former lecturer in creative writing and a fiction mentor, how could it be any other way? There are likely to be random posts too: links, views and opinion-pieces. All views expressed are my own, and no one else’s.
Below is a photograph of me and Booker-prizewinning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. It was taken by my wife after a hugely enjoyable, personally inspiring and high-profile ‘in conversation’ event in 2010. Arranged by Faber&Faber, Kent County Council and Canterbury Christ Church University as part of a Libraries Initiative, it was designed to encourage more people to use libraries, read books, and perhaps write their own one day. Three months later, my life slowly unravelled and collapsed. Ironically, within a year, I was struggling to stand, to think, let alone read or write. So, this image of me standing beside the now Nobel Laureate holds bitter-sweet memories.
Eight years on, I’m delighted to say I’m back. Back with a book I dreamed of writing and feared I’d never complete. A dozen times I stopped writing it, but felt compelled to finish the job because it was a story that needed telling. Some of any profit will go to organisations and charities pushing for change and supporting Lyme patients. My novel will be published to coincide with the international Lyme awareness month of May.
Finally, in this, my first post, I should apologise in advance if Anatomised (the novel) breaks hearts. Early reviewers, including my agent, described it as “almost unbearably moving”. I truly hope it is, but it’s also intended to raise a smile, or lift the human spirit. It is about possibilities for change, for renewal, for new beginnings, because out of catastrophe, calamity or crisis comes a chrysalis. In that sense, Anatomised is my little renaissance: a love story, a tragedy, and an extraordinary journey to the heart of the human soul.
It would be wonderful to have you share part of this journey. Call it our journey.
©A. F. McGuinness Ishiguro image: ©culture-positive