Fran Macilvey contacted me a while ago and asked if I’d liked to review her memoir – Trapped: My Life With Cerebral Palsy. I obviously said yes because I love reviewing books and discovering new authors and also I like reading about other disabled people (especially people who also have CP) and seeing how our experiences compare. Despite one of my friends telling me point blank I shouldn’t read this book because I’d find it depressing I enjoyed reading it.
My full review of Trapped will be posted tomorrow (edit: it’s now available here) but Fran was also kind enough to answer some interview questions for me and they are posted below. My interview with Fran was probably the hardest one to come up with questions for (other than my very first author interview) because I had a lot I wanted to ask her that I suspected would fall under the too nosy/too personal/not really relevant/boring if you aren’t me. I’d like to thank her for sending me a free copy of Trapped and for taking the time to answer these questions.
What made you decide to write Trapped?
Once my daughter had started school I had time on my hands and could no longer pretend that writing was ‘frivolous’. I wanted my family and friends to understand my motivations, because I had become expert at saying and doing a lot of nothing. It was a big chance for me to learn more about the motivations of my family, to understand them better, and get to know them again; and to get over all the sadness. It was hard work, but I gained so much from having the courage to sit down and just start.
When I was younger I was always put off writing a book about CP for fear it’d be put in the “painful lives” section of Waterstones. Did you have any concerns about how Trapped would be received?
Oh, yes, totally. I understand that. It took me years to write my story, and to learn to leave other people’s stories alone. Having arrived at what I thought was a reasonable narrative I had to let other people read it and comment. It felt like jumping off a cliff. Yes, it was very frightening. I was unsure whether I had done the right thing, especially having put so much effort into it. Putting memoir out is really tough, because of course, all critique feels more personal. But it does get easier, and I can honestly say that without the help of readers, reviewers and those who offered feedback, the book would never have been written.
If you could give one piece of advice to the parent of someone just diagnosed with CP what would it be?
Relax and enjoy the journey as much as you can. If you care to listen, you can learn from each other. That’s two, sorry.
Would you give the same advice to a child or teen/young adult with CP or would you give them different advice?
Much the same, I suspect. Treating each other with respect is harder than it looks, and we can be careless about that, without meaning to be. But for a young adult, I would say, live adventurously. Look for the happiness in every situation.
Is there another book you’d like to write and if so what is it?
I have a second book in progress called, ‘Happiness Matters’ which is about how I learned to prioritise all the important things in life: love, patience, optimism and joy, and make them work better for me.
If you could give me one tip (or even a couple of tips) to improve my writing what would it be?
Always write as honestly as you can, even if that is within a fantasy framework. When I write honestly, I feel more alive, and that energy feeds into the writing. Fear, shame and personal embarrassment hold us back and are a bit of a waste of time. Take a leap.
What’s your favourite book that you think I absolutely have to read if I haven’t already?*
How about ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ or ’Pride and Prejudice’? In non-fiction, I would recommend ‘Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China’ by Yung Chang. If you prefer something humorous, perhaps Lilian Beckwith’s ‘The Hills is Lonely’ or the James Herriot books.
Say I invented a time machine and you could go back to an earlier part of your life what would you choose?
Two weeks in 1971, so that I could go back and see our pets, sit in the sun, swim in the ocean and maybe go on safari one more time. So long as you could guarantee that afterwards, I could come back here. Life is very good for me at the moment!
*I’ve read both Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Pride and Prejudice already and would also recommend them to any of my readers looking for a classic read.