I’d perhaps almost forgotten just how powerful words can be, but I had a reminder at the end of last month. I was invited by a good friend to give a talk in the fine market town of Hadleigh in Suffolk. The subject was the Crocodile Caves expeditions to Madagascar. It is quite a while since I revisited those experiences, and this time thought I’d read a couple of snippets from LEMURS OF THE LOST WORLD. One was light-hearted, capturing the Malagasy capacity of games and laughter, while the second was the sting in the tail. Reading it out loud brought back some really nasty feelings of an agonising 36 hours, and I was surprised just how powerfully the emotions affected me. I’ve heard it said that people don’t remember pain – maybe that’s true, unless you write about it.
You’ll be pleased to discover that the scorpion didn’t kill me although the sensation in my stung finger STILL isn’t normal. I also survived the experience of the reading and, more importantly, so did my audience. What made them squirm more, in fact, was a story contributed by Claire Verlander who was in the assembled company; she described an unfortunate ring-tailed lemur being swallowed by a boa constrictor. The saddest part was that the victim was a mother, and her infant was left screaming in the treetops.
This weekend I have returned to editing A GLIMPSE OF ETERNAL SNOWS. My new editor at Bradt is helping me to tighten the original writing a bit – reducing word-count is almost always A GOOD THING but this too is a painful process. A local GP colleague who is also an author, Mary Selby (aka Joanna Bell) describes the process as like scooping teeth out with a spoon. It really hurts. So far I’ve managed to cut 6500 words from what was a 141,000 word book, but I suspect more must go. The problem is that this memoir covers our years in Nepal and this was the time when I’ve experienced the very best as well as the very lowest points in my life. The challenge as an author though is to entertain my readers. Glimpse is a joyous book and what I’m working towards is making it even more uplifting than the original read.