Oh no, it’s Spring!

Newborn Lamb

Oh no, it’s the first day of spring. I am not a spring person. I have barely got over it being winter. In fact, if I’m honest, I have barely come to terms with it being winter. I am not ready to extract myself from hibernation. So don’t try and drag me outside to enjoy it.

I like having the heating turned up high and the blinds down, keeping out the miserable sight of the grey oppressive sky hanging there like a reminder of something half-done. I like getting into my fleecy jammies at 4 o’clock when it starts to get dark, hunkering down in my candle-lit cave to greet the night. I don’t like all this flagrant early sunlight which promises but rarely delivers warmth outdoors. It’s all a bit too bright, too soon.

My grandmother was a wise woman who taught me certain irrefutable truths, like for example it being bad luck to reverse a garment you’d inadvertently put on inside out or back to front. Every year at the first sign of bulbs pushing their snouts above the soil she used to say: “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out,” and I’ve taken her at her word ever since. Whether or not we understand ‘May’ to refer to the month or the Hawthorn blossom of the same name, it comes to the same thing.

March is not the time to be stripping off your many layers of clouts. Maybe one layer, or even two on a particularly unseasonably warm day (and with the whole climate change thing there have been a few of those lately to fool us into false hope) but please – leave it there. There is nothing so demoralising for someone who feels the cold even in the middle of summer as the sight of young foolhardy fashion aficionados strutting their skimpy vests and bare legs along the street, while I’m still debating whether I need a sweater and a coat. And possibly a woolly hat and gloves. You can’t be too careful.

When I was at nursery school we used to have a big poster on the wall, telling you exactly what to expect throughout the year in terms of weather. “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers” it proclaimed. And beneath that the chilling verse: “The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow, and what will poor robin do then, poor thing?” So don’t talk to me about cute little lambs and daffodils. It’s bloody freezing out there on the hills and in the fields, and I’m glad I didn’t incarnate as a sheep. Or a daffodil. Or indeed a robin.

By the time Easter arrives towards the end of April, I might feel more grudgingly accepting of the fact that summer is bound to happen. Round about the end of May I start to get the hang of it. By then I’ve got stuck in with the hay fever that inevitably gets kicked off by the combination of all that pollen from the Hawthorn blossom and the reckless shedding of clouts. I am not an outdoorsy sort of person. I was one of those unfortunate babies under the dubious regime of Dr Spock. We had no option about being bundled up and stuck outside in our prams in all weathers to “get the benefit” of the bracing air. As soon as I was old enough to exercise some choice in the matter I decided I’d had enough of all that, thank you.

So Vernal Equinox or not I won’t be fired up with enthusiasm about reclaiming my garden from the deathly arms of winter (and please stop sending me seed catalogues and cheery emails reminding me when I should be planting things.) The trees are still bare, the March wind doth blow quite aggressively down my chimney as I write, and my cat is still spending most of his 18 hour sleeping day either snuggled in his own duvet or mine (I don’t know why I still bother to make a distinction.) I will decide when spring has sprung, and it hasn’t happened yet.

(Somewhat tongue in cheek, this was first published in 2014, but despite appreciating the glorious efforts of the Spring flowers, which I love, nothing much else has changed.)

If you would like to find out more about my novels and short stories, there are links to them all on my website The Lesley Hayes Website

The tears I shed yesterday


This year has only just begun, and yet already I feel weary. Like many of us, I am still trying to make sense in my heart of the events of 2016. Globally, it was a year of shocks, relentless warfare, too many pointless deaths, and so many much loved icons leaving the planet, all of which has seemingly evoked an accumulating collective response of existential post traumatic shockwaves. We live in turbulent times.

For most of my life I have managed to maintain a high degree of optimism, no matter how dire my individual circumstances have been. In recent years that has been liberally sprinkled with the kind of sceptical realism that takes over from the happy go lucky attitude of youth, and often manifests as dark humour. Well, you have to laugh, don’t you? But I seem lately to have lost my smile.

On a personal level, this has been possibly the worst year of my life. There has been a tsunami of events and their emotional repercussions I still feel unable to write about. I’ve found it difficult to hold on to my habitual sense of positivity. I’ve noticed myself withdrawing further from the world, the crueller it seems to get. I don’t feel proud of being a human being. Even though I mostly choose the kinder response to what life throws at me, I have to accept responsibility for the aspect of being human that is punishing and greedily self-motivated. We are all in this together. It isn’t good enough to divide the world into me and not-me.

When I was younger I had the energy to be a larger part of the change I wanted to see happen in the world. One of the things our sixth decade tends to teach us is how increasingly powerless we are. We no longer have a public voice, unless we are famous. Most of us aren’t. We can’t go on protest marches and hold banners because our stamina isn’t up to it. And anyway, we’ve begun to wonder what in any case the point would be. The more things change the more they stay the same. Or in some cases become considerably worse.

I have learned I need to keep my private voice quiet, and to be careful to speak only the things that matter. Is it true, is it kind, is it helpful? And if it isn’t all of those things, is it worth saying at all? For a writer this can be the cold kiss of death. I need to communicate, and although I have for the most part maintained the will to be honest, the things I want to say aren’t always received well, however kind and clear the intention. Someone told me the other day that they had come to realise that I found it easier to tell the truth in writing rather than in the room with someone. Although at first it felt as though my integrity was in question, a flash of welcome insight showed me they were right.

Too often I have held back from hurting someone’s feelings by expressing my own hurt or anger. Empathy is a helpful attribute, but in certain circumstances it can also make a coward of me. I realised after that comment how much simpler it usually is to put my empathy and compassion for the other in unspoken brackets when I am writing something that needs to be conveyed factually and succinctly. Those words can seem cold and hard on the page, whereas my efforts to speak them face to face can become fuddled with affectionate bracketing. I want to be understood, but I want even more to be understanding. I can always see the other person’s position, sometimes more clearly than my own.

I gave up making New Year resolutions quite a while ago. If I have intentions I keep them mostly to myself. But this year, having spent the last one facing a number of unpalatable truths and releasing the last shreds of various illusions, I have resolved to be kinder to myself: to expect less of myself in terms of my own high standards; to consider what I really need without apologising so much; to ask directly for what I want and refuse what I don’t, rather than stomach disappointments; and most importantly of all, to welcome love back into my life.

Last year gave me plenty of opportunity to reflect on what I have lost: what has long been lost, and what I have let go for other people’s sake; for the love that never was, or never could be; for the sacrifices I have made for people who never noticed or cared that I made them; for the loneliness that has dogged me since I was a small child, just one step behind like a shadow attached my soul. The kind of honesty I have tried to bring to bring to most of my dealings most of my life, (with a few unfortunate lapses), I have applied to looking at myself: to what is left of me after all these losses have been accounted for. The truth is that at the beginning of 2017 I feel sad.

What makes it worse is that I feel ashamed of feeling sad. In writing this I am struggling to defy the inner voice that says this is self-indulgence of the worst kind, that instead of morosely dwelling on my own feelings I need to be focusing on what I can do to contribute something to other people. But I’m also aware that if I were one of my own therapy clients saying this I’d be reminding them that compassion needs to be a 360 degrees process. Loving oneself in pain and sorrow is essential to allow healing in through the cracks in the wall of the prison.

The paradox of being an embodied human is that our bodies offer us the most incredible opportunities for pleasure, release and self-expression – and can also become the cage in which our physical, mental or emotional suffering can pace back and forth, snarling with grief at how trapped we are by our pain. It’s exhausting to be in continual pain and to find no solution for it, to feel abandoned by our coping mechanisms and strategies for survival, to see no end in sight and feel that no one else can understand our dilemma.

This is such familiar territory for me. Knowing it so deeply is what has enabled me over the years to dive alongside other people into the fathoms of their darkness and hold a glimmer of light to guide them. It’s the one gift we can offer one another: to share the burden of being human with as much empathy as we can muster. We all experience pain, grief, disappointment, and endure the seemingly unendurable, and none of us get out of it alive. We all long to be loved unconditionally and be held securely despite all evidence that points to how impossible this is. If we are lucky we had some experience of this at the beginning of our life, but many of us didn’t and somehow survived with the blueprint for what that might look like still intact. How amazing we are, really, when I reflect on that.

In the legend of Pandora’s Box, hope is the last and only thing preserved when all other ills have escaped into the world. It’s the one thing we hold on to, however magnificent an illusion it might sometimes turn out to be. I’m aware that 2016 left me with very little to feel hopeful about, and that this is a bitter fruit to taste, and not one I wish to share. Perhaps there is a time in our life when we need to relinquish all hope for what can never be and accept the beautiful simplicity of the truth of what lies behind our illusions.

As I tiptoe carefully through the broken pieces of debris from the fallen walls of my past life, I am nursing this small glowing ember of hope in my hands. Not enough yet to keep me warm, to create another thin blanket of safety in this tragically unsafe world, but enough to light the way for myself. I can see happiness just a few steps away – although who knows how long it will take me to make those steps when I’m so weary. I know that no one else can bring it closer, that I have to be the one to find my way to where love waits, where it has always waited. Gratitude for what is, and the balm of forgetting will lead the way.



Disclaimer: I am not a bad person. Sometimes bad things are done by good people.

It all began with the window cleaner. No, I tell a lie. It all began when my daughter stripped back the ivy on the exterior wall of my bathroom. “There’s a wasps’ nest in here!” she said, beating a hasty retreat down the ladder and pointing to the ventilation panel at the top of the wall. “They’ve built it inside the bathroom loft, by the look of it.” A bit of a clue had been the preponderance of wasps annoying us while we’d sat drinking tea earlier. It was a sunny day, and I felt benign towards the wasps as long as they didn’t get too territorial. Having moved far beyond the ruthless arrogance of youth I am now inclined to carry small insects outside in my cupped hands, or if they are really creepy, in a container fit for purpose. I believe in the sanctity of all life and think of myself as a pacifist.

A week later I contacted a local window cleaner – an admission of defeat, because I’ve always cleaned my own windows until the last couple of years when it’s got progressively physically more of a challenge. There comes a point when you just have to admit defeat about a number of things. He came round to case the joint, to ensure he could get his ladder through to the back of my small terraced cottage, and as he stood there in the garden surveying the upstairs windows he said: “Did you realise you’ve got two wasps’ nests out here?” He’d spotted a second one, up in the eaves above my bedroom window. That made even more sense of what was fast becoming a wasp incursion into my erstwhile peaceful, secluded garden.

“I can get rid of them for you.” the window cleaner said. “Wasps are on the rampage in Oxford this summer. Nasty little things. Can’t see the point of them. I’ve blitzed a good few nests lately. I don’t know where they’re all coming from, but you’d do well to clear them out of your back yard. I’ll do it for you when I come and clean the windows, if you like.”

I didn’t really think it through. ‘Getting rid of them’ seemed like the ultimate solution at that point. I didn’t consider what that really meant for the wasps. I didn’t dwell overlong on how bad it was for the environment (not to mention the wasps themselves) as I purchased the means of chemical warfare the following day. I was mainly thinking of how great it would be to see through my windows again and sit in my garden without being bombarded by unwelcome buzzing visitors. Bees are different. I love the bees. They aren’t a bit of trouble. In fact I’ve planted everything with bees in mind and love the sight of a few bees bumbling away gathering nectar. I know I’m not on the witness stand here, but I don’t want to give the impression I’m a merciless, insect hating tyrant.

Anyway, cut to the day the window cleaner arrived to do his thing. He was very thorough. Having restored my window panes to a state of splendiferous visibility I’d thought never to see again, he sprayed the bejasus out of the two wasps’ nests. Understandably, this infuriated and disturbed them into a frenzied, chaotic mob. Watching them cluster round the blocked entrance to their nest in the eaves made me feel so guilty, like I’d nuked Syria. It was all too horribly late to reverse my lethal decision. My tendency to anthromorphosise kicked in and I started fretting about the wasps trapped inside the blocked nest and imagined the desperation of those trying to get through the chemical barrier in the war zone to take care of their family. I could almost hear their screams.

“They’re only wasps,” the window cleaner said, noticing my angst. Nice man, but clearly not on my empathic wavelength.

He took his ladder round the corner to deal with the other nest tucked behind the ventilation grille in the mini loft space over the single storey bathroom extension. I withdrew like the coward I was into the kitchen and left him to it. I could have said: “Don’t bother. There has been enough slaughter for one day.” But I didn’t. I take full responsibility for that. I was no innocent in this. I was fully culpable. I really can’t blame the window cleaner. Unfortunately the ensuing events turned out to be something of a Waspgate.

An hour after he’d gone I went into the bathroom to discover a scenario not unlike the movie The Birds, only with wasps. One of my worst nightmares. Too much of anything flying round your head is bad news. Thoughts being a case in point. But although thoughts can be managed with mindfulness, the same isn’t true of wasps. There were what appeared to be hundreds of them, swarming in understandable panic and confusion. They must have escaped from the loft space via some minute cracks in the sides of the access hatch. It was total Waspageddon.

I dashed back to the kitchen and got the now almost empty can of wasp nest destroyer spray foam, and dodging wasp bullets I sprayed all round the hatch, but by then they had followed me back to the kitchen so I was surrounded on both fronts. I started spraying the foam randomly, contrary to the instructions on the can which urged caution and the wearing of a mask and protective clothing. Afterwards both rooms and the lobby in between needed a thorough health and safety clean up. The wasps persisted. Eventually in desperation I got out the vacuum cleaner and started sucking them into it. Not easy with a hundred or so moving targets, especially when you feel forced by fear into the role of murderer, hating every second of the tactic you are using.

It probably wasn’t them or me, but in the moment it seemed to be. When I say ‘moment’ I actually mean several hours, because the wasps just didn’t give up. And who could blame them?

All in all, it was a bit of a debacle. Early next morning, when I went down to make myself a cup of tea, there was a small angry contingent of them in the kitchen, having been waiting all night to dive bomb me the moment I opened the door. Grabbing the almost empty can, I began spraying foam randomly again, which of course subsequently meant another health and safety clean up. That wasn’t the end of it by any means. For the next five days small gangs of them continued to manifest in the bathroom, albeit in ever decreasing numbers. I eventually concluded they were getting in from another dimension as by then I’d blocked, foam sprayed and basically turned my bathroom into a razed post nuclear ground zero for wasps.

My extreme feelings of guilt escalated and I apologised (seriously) each time I picked them off and assigned them to wherever wasps go when they cross the rainbow bridge. Finally one of them actually stung me, as I was attempting kindly to give it a fighting chance by putting it outside through the cautiously opened window. Well, it had to happen. Be sure your sins will sooner or later come back and bite you. Two weeks on, and they are still coming in from somewhere – one intrepid rebel at a time. In a funny way I admire them. I can relate to their tenacity. And on the plus side, my bathroom has never been cleaner.

My latest novel The Other Twin can be found on Amazon The Other Twin

You can also discover more about me and all my other books at The Lesley Hayes Website

Human kind cannot bear very much reality


‘Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.’
(The Four Quartets – Burnt Norton)

I first discovered T.S. Eliot’s poetry when I was fourteen. It was the beginning of a lifelong attachment to his writing, which I have often quoted and used as inspiration. I was never one of the in crowd at school. While my more popular peers were obsessing about the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, makeup, boys and the all important debate about whether to relinquish one’s virginity, I was reflecting on death, futility and meaninglessness, and writing introspective poetry.

When I read T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land I immediately recognised a kindred spirit. In my adolescent ennui I had already ‘measured out my life in coffee spoons’ (The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock) and wondered daily whether life would end with a bang or a whimper. It was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and seemed probable that the end of the world would arrive imminently with a devastating bang. However, only a very few likeminded friends seemed to worry about that as much as I did.

But the ultimate nuclear holocaust didn’t happen, and life went on. How naive we were. We still hoped that the Berlin Wall would come down (which of course it eventually did) and that our nineteen sixties optimism would truly usher in the Age of Aquarius. I was a hippie manqué, and by then had already become adept at avoiding as much reality as possible. There seemed to be an awful lot more of it than I could stomach, and writing had proved a useful escape route. It allowed me to view life’s large and little dramas from a relatively detached ringside seat where observation and commentary made it rather more containable.

I persisted in writing my poems and then branched out into short stories, developing a dark, often cynical sense of humour, the nuances of which were often apparently lost on other people. Although perhaps not. By the age of twenty my stories were being regularly published and continued to be for the next twenty years. The novels came later, and by then I’d had plenty more raw material on which to base my fiction. Rather too much, if I’m honest. It was a trend that didn’t abate.

That particular line about human kind not being able to bear very much reality kept on resonating over the years. You can have too much of a good thing, and you can definitely have too much of the things that aren’t so good. Life forces you into a version of reality unique to you, which is compelling enough, in the way of all good soap operas, to keep you focused outward and fascinated much of the time. The Story of Me is one that keeps each of us gripped to a greater or lesser degree throughout our life. We have to keep paying attention to it, in case we lose the thread. It’s taken me these many decades on to really begin to reach the truth of how unimportant that story is. As a psychotherapist I heard many people’s stories, and listened to their pain. We are more similar to one another than we realise, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Developing our capacity for empathy is the kindest gift we can offer to ourselves and others.

Genuine deep compassion for ourselves is often the last place we learn to put it. It isn’t being selfish to honour our needs and recognise our limits. For years I’ve been saying: “I’ve had enough now” about a number of things, and last year I really upped my game. Saying I’ve had enough has often been the catalyst for necessary change, but not every situation can be changed. I began long ago to practice cultivating tolerance and hope, even though tolerance is probably still the hardest pill for me to swallow. I have impatience with wilful incompetence, and find the bullshit and hypocrisy that oils the social wheels unpalatable. That makes me a loyal and trustworthy friend but a challenging opponent when it comes to integrity. I have learned to pick my battles very carefully.

When it comes to certain circumstances I’ve observed that whether or not I feel I’ve had enough, life hasn’t had enough of teaching me. I believe passionately in the power of choice, but not everything is within our gift to choose. As I get older I realise how increasingly little is actually in my control, beyond my options of how to react and respond. And even that isn’t always in my remit. Knees still jerk when hit in the place designed to elicit a reaction. But at least I notice. I’ve come to the conclusion now that the deal I’ve struck with life is to learn how to face the unbearable with as much grace and acceptance as possible. It’s still work in progress.

All of this is enigmatic twaddle for anyone seeking the story behind my ramblings. But the story isn’t really my point. It’s more to do with how we manage the ‘reality’ with which we are presented, whether or not it feels too much. I’m not an advocate either of ‘escape’ (which doesn’t equate with freedom, whatever the temporary distraction it provides) or martyred stoicism. Nor am I someone who can cheerfully recommend that when life gives you lemons you just make lemonade, or whistle happily as you sling a few broken eggs together to make an omelette.

But I have put together a few reminders for myself, which in no way sets me up as the fount of all wisdom. Far from it. My way is just my way, and my conclusions are not original. I am, after all, simply another human being, figuring out how to survive through all the changes in a lifetime and take responsibility for managing my pain. We aren’t born with a guide book. We have to work it out or make it up as we go along. Anyway, these are a few of my own evolving rules for life:

1. Humility

I’m no cleverer than anyone else when it comes to understanding. Watch, listen and learn is the best I can do. And other people can be an honest or a warped mirror to facilitate me knowing myself. Their projections might be flattering or overly critical, but I need to remember their opinions say more about them than they do about me, and not be swayed.

2. Patience

“Everything passes” is a cliché that used to make me smile when I heard my father repeat it so often. Thanks, dad, for your wisdom. As in so many things, you were right.

3. “Keep your heart open, even in hell”

I heard this advice many, many years ago. And finally, it really makes sense. Without an open heart there can be no healing. An open heart is not mushy, sentimental or unprotected, but unclenches the fist of resistance and allows things to just be. Hell is just another place to go through.

4. Grief

This deserves a whole blog post all to itself. In my experience it’s not ever what you expect. And it has a lot to do with the nature of the relationship you’ve lost. Ranting, meltdown, despair and rage are every bit as valid as weeping. Storming the walls of who you thought you were seems to be the journey. And it hurts.

5. Forgiveness

Life often sucks. Judgements about what constitutes unfairness are subjective. It helps to let go of expectations that it should be or even could be another way. Expectations are sneaky things, however, and creep in stealthily even when you think you’ve barred the door against them. So don’t expect not to have expectations. This is how it is. It’s as good as it gets and you might as well forgive life its ‘imperfections’. If it’s broken, whatever it is, don’t get hung up on believing it has to be mended. You can love broken things too. We are all broken.

6. “Be positive”

No, seriously, don’t. Not unless you genuinely happen to be feeling positive when you’re reading this. Be however you damn well are. That’s positive in its own liberating way. There is something energising and empowering about giving yourself permission not always to look on the bright side. The dark side has a lot to teach us too. Society seems to encourage us to smile even when our heart is breaking. Sometimes we do that to protect other people from our pain. Which is ok, of course, but don’t make it too much of a habit and allow it to morph into denial. Let me refer you to 2 above. Everything passes, eventually your time on the planet itself. Be real. Be here. Let it be. Let it flow. And when you can’t bear too much reality don’t feel bad about it. Jump off the wheel for a while and land wherever it takes you. It might be the most creative move you ever made.

You can find out more of my fascinating thoughts on my website The Lesley Hayes Website where there are links to all my novels on Amazon

The Other Twin

The Other Twin-cover

As anyone who has read my novel The Drowned Phoenician Sailor knows, I am intrigued by the special connection shared by twins. Like Verity, the central character in The Other Twin, I was born under the aegis of the zodiac sign Gemini, and perhaps that has fuelled my fascination. The twins I have known in real life (I always feel compelled to add “whatever that is” when I use that term) are not joined at the hip emotionally, and are often at odds, resentful of the assumption that they will think alike, dress alike, and get on like a house on fire. Setting each other’s houses on fire is more likely, from what I’ve observed – the uneasy sense that each is stealing part of themselves they want back, but can never have while the other twin is around.

Of course there are twins, I’m sure, who are happy with the mirror image each offers, and enjoy spending time together and sharing their toys, their clothes, their friends, and maybe even their lovers – but they aren’t the ones who intrigue me. As with all my novels, it’s the shadow that grabs my interest, the dark side of our loving, generous natures; the part of us that is driven by powerful desires that sometimes shame and frighten us with their intensity.

I’ve written before about the process of writing a novel, and each time – much like a love affair – it’s both familiar and yet unique. This novel was written in various stages, begun soon after I finished writing Dangerous People, while I was grieving the loss of those characters. (I said it was like a love affair.) I recognize, as probably many of my readers do, that there are certain archetypes that emerge again and again in my writing. As a psychologist I am well aware that there is some deep angst in my psyche I am attempting to exorcise – but it’s best just to acknowledge that rather than try and analyse it. Ripping the wings off a creative butterfly is never particularly useful. I’ll leave it to the critics.

There are times when it seems the universe hurls great Sisyphean boulders in our path to block us – or as I prefer to think of it, challenge us. During the early months of writing I was simultaneously orchestrating a move from the house I have lived in for thirty years. Anyone who has done this knows what a tortuous labour house buying and selling can be, and this was no easy ride. I was full of enthusiasm that gradually morphed into cynicism (not a comfortable fit for me) as I learned the hard way that not everyone can be trusted to play by the same rules as me. On the plus side, I gave roomfuls and cupboardfuls of stuff away to charity, and pared my belongings down to an almost Zenlike simplicity. (Definitely a good fit. I do love a good cull.) Only weeks away from the actual move (the third house I had made an offer on, and so surely third time lucky) family events erupted which ultimately meant I ended up not moving at all.

Here is not the place to talk about those events, which are still painfully raw, but it meant that once again the novel writing had to be relegated to an even lower position down the league table of my priorities. I wasn’t sure, for a couple of months, if I would ever properly return to it. My heart was elsewhere, wrapped around with many layers of grief. Not surprisingly, given all the stress I was experiencing, I had been unwell throughout much of this time, from the end of last autumn all the way through to now. My chronic fibromyalgia, neuralgia and associated stomach problems, soared to new heights of suffering. I’m not complaining. I have learned to live with the physical effects of what was once dubbed “over-sensitivity”. Sometimes it proves an easier companion than others. Writing has been for me one of the ways of liberating myself from pain – emotional as well as physical. And so it proved this time, eventually.

I opened my laptop one day and saw the poor neglected file that held two thirds of the completed first draft of The Other Twin, and started to read it. By the time I got to the end, I had to find out what happened next… and there was only me to write it. I had fallen in love with my characters all over again. Who were they really, beneath the masks they had assumed for the purposes of the narrative? Verity had already changed since she was introduced at the start of the novel. She had matured, as I always intend for my characters, experience having enabled her to widen her emotional horizons and grow kinder and more insightful. It’s what we each hope for ourselves, after all. I wondered where her choices would lead her, and continued to write avidly, discovering along the way.

The ending surprised even me. Had I always meant for it to be this way? It had the ring of inevitability about it, but even so I toyed with the notion of alternatives. But no other kind of ending had the same integrity, and so I had to bow to the deeper wisdom of the muse, as so often before. It really does seem sometimes as though a novel writes itself.

Do I know any more about the psychology of twins after writing it? Do you understand more by reading it? As in most of my stories, I have explored those themes that haunt me: the sometimes banal face of evil – the corruption at the heart of human nature that pushes us towards acts of betrayal, manipulation and annihilation. I like to keep my canvas small. We see those themes writ large on the world stage, and are shocked by the things we read and hear on the news, the crimes we all agree are beyond the pale. And yet, there in the closeted world of our family, those themes resonate time and again, and we are often blind to them. It can feel safer simply to ignore them. I guess in my novels I hope to open your eyes to see what I see, and remember we are each the sum of the choices we make. In the end, that’s how we are known and remembered.

You can find The Other Twin on kindle at Amazon The Other Twin

The mad headspace of a writer

The mad headspace of a writer

It was while I was reading my short stories every week on BBC Radio Oxford that the penny finally dropped that I have multiple personalities. Not in a clinical sense – you could never describe it as a ‘disorder’ exactly. I’ve kept it under wraps and confined it, for the most part, to the realm of my writing. Readers of my stories and novels have often asked me which of the characters I’ve written are ‘me’, and the honest answer is usually “all of them.” It’s true that some are easier to own than others. For instance, in my most recent novel ‘Dangerous People’, I can relate to both central protagonists, Violet and Drew, as aspects of my personality that in some guise or another show up in several of my novels. At least in this latest one I’ve avoiding casting the male hero as a psychotherapist. Is that progress? It probably speaks of how much I’ve now let go of that particular identity. It is, after all, only a role, just as ‘author’ is a role – expedient names we choose to present our individuality to the world.

Age and gender have very little to do with aspects of self. Our archetypes are ageless, and reside, both male and female, within the psyche of us all. My psychotherapy training included psychodrama, in which we enacted traditional fairytales, intuitively choosing our own and picking other members of the group to play the different characters. We were all stunned to see how close to our real life stories they turned out to be – and even more so to find that the parts assigned to us by other people brought out latent aspects of ourselves we immediately recognised, even when we didn’t much like them. I remember the painful experience of playing the wicked witch in someone else’s Hansel and Gretel story. That wasn’t me – surely? But I managed to come up with a chillingly convincing script as I immersed myself in the role.

That process underlined for me how amazingly fractured and malleable our self-identity can be, when given free rein to express itself. As a writer, I’d already had an insight into that when analysing my work, but for others in our group it came as a somewhat scary revelation. I eventually emerged from my training considerably madder than when I began, but in a good way. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? I suppose by ‘mad’ I really mean ‘liberated’. There’s something so freeing about recognising that our persona is simply a convenient mask we wear, and ‘self’ is not necessarily fixed, but contains a number of sub-personalities who take over the show when circumstances call them up. I must add that there is a marked difference between holding this awareness and the psychological disorder where each individual ‘alternative’ aspect is cut off from the rest. That is not what I’m describing here, and it’s often a tortuous journey for someone living with that dilemma to discover and create dialogue and unity within their fragmented self.

But back to the aspects of self exposed and unravelled while writing a novel… the unpleasant characters are the ones that are hardest to own, those that dwell for the most part in our shadow and only emerge when provoked perhaps, or in solitary moments when we feel undeniably murderous rage throbbing hotly in our veins. We all have superheroes and villains hiding in our psyche – why else would we love them so much when we see them writ large on the movie screen? I take great pleasure in writing about the parts of my personality that rarely have the opportunity to hold centre stage. The classic victim Imogen in ‘Dangerous People’ gets to whine and sulk and persecute from her unassailable position of abandoned self-pity. Sophie teeters on the brink of barely repressed lunacy after a lifetime of emotional sacrifice. Osborne takes the oblivious narcissism of the egocentric author to an outrageous level. And Lewis… Ah, Lewis… how I relished allowing his character to reveal itself – shocking even me at times with the extent of his obsessive self delusion and where unchecked it ultimately leads him.

I usually find that when I’m writing about these parts of me that aren’t really me (or not the ‘me’ I recognise) I begin to develop an empathic understanding for how they came to be the way they are. We are all so wounded by life, one way or another, that our crimes against one another are explicable even if not easily forgivable. I like to leave clues for the reader like the trail of breadcrumbs left by Hansel and Gretel in the enchanted forest, so that no one judges too readily the actions that begin to make more sense when the bigger picture unfolds like a well-creased map of the inner world. I suppose that’s something I’ve learned to do over the years, not just through being a psychotherapist but because if you live long enough life gives you the opportunity to run the gamut of relationships. From defenceless child all the way through arrogant youth and dynastic adulthood to vulnerable old age we acquire experience from different perspectives that teaches us we are not simply one thing, and we change and grow and hopefully look back with wisdom and compassion on our younger, ignorant self.

So next time you find yourself thinking, for whatever reason: “I don’t know what got into me!” be assured it was just another glorious or inglorious aspect of you that snuck in through the back door of your mind and pushed its way to the front of the queue of performance artists in your psyche. I wish I could claim originality for saying all the world’s a stage and we are merely players, strutting our stuff and in our lifetime playing many parts – but with so many fellow scribes among my readers I don’t think I’d get away with it.

You can find ‘Dangerous People’ on Amazon by following this link: http://bit.ly/1OKTNBH

And listen to an excerpt from the novel here: https://youtu.be/DEwRM239Lk8

You can discover more about all my books at http://www.lesleyhayes.co.uk

Blame it on the Muse


I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again (at least, I hope I do) – this process of writing a novel is a curious business. It takes me ever deeper into a strange, and yet strangely familiar, landscape. I remember years ago meeting a friend, another writer, who had just spent three years locked within the enclosed monastery walls of her work in progress, emerging apologetically to discover which of her friends had not abandoned her. “I’ve been quite mad,” she said. “I’ve been driven insane with it. The bloody thing won’t let me go. Day and night it’s taken me over, and now I hate it.” I read her novel, and it was an innocuous enough tome, if rather bulkier than it needed to be. I felt for her. Appearances can be deceptive, and I knew all too well that feeling as though the novel and all its characters have taken on a life of their own and don’t spare one ounce of sympathy for what they demand of you.

This time, like every time I begin something new, I felt confident that I would keep my head above water. It was a comedy of manners I was writing, after all. Where could be the harm in that? I already knew how the story would go (or I thought I did) and I had the measure of the characters. I would maintain a sense of proportion, I thought. There would be no midnight burning of the metaphoric oil as I peered at the glowing blue and white screen as if scrying into a crystal ball for an undiscovered future. There would be no waking at dawn with the next chapter already written in my head, urgently propelling me towards the computer. I wouldn’t find myself stopped in my tracks by some revelatory comment one of the characters whispered in my ear, usually at the most inopportune moment. I would work to a schedule. I would be disciplined. I would continue with the rest of my life just as if I wasn’t mentally chained to the rock I had to carry every day to the top of inspiration’s mountain.

For a while this seemed to be successful. I managed to get three-quarters of the way through the first draft still feeling buoyant. I was getting to know the people in my novel, beginning to understand them. They had moved from being caricatures to becoming real – much like Pinocchio, who changes from wooden puppet to actual boy by virtue of developing a conscience and learning to tell the truth. As soon as the people in my novels start to tell me their truth the hardest part of the process begins. From then on, I feel their pain, I hear their life story (whether or not it ends up on the page) and I can no longer manipulate them to do or say what I think they should. They achieve an integrity that is beyond the role I ascribed to them. If they are good, they are never entirely good. If they are bad, there is always some explanation for their flaw, even if it remains unspoken. I don’t write everything I know about them, but I do need to know it.

What began with my tongue in my cheek had by now morphed into a story that had grave implications. I had become the witness rather than the creator, and all I could do was record with as much honesty as possible the tale that unfolded under their direction. Of course, this is all madness, as my friend so many years ago described. In those far off days we didn’t have the luxury of cutting and pasting on the computer. Any cutting and pasting to be done was quite literal, littering my study floor at times with random scraps of paper. Rewrites took a small forest’s worth of typing paper and ate up three times as many hours as it takes us now. It was quite possible in those days to shut yourself off from friends and family and lock yourself away like Shakespeare, confined to a garret until the work was finished. There was no social media demanding attention and flirting with your concentration to distract you. You could go as mad as you liked, and no one would particular notice. If you were lucky you had someone in your life to keep you fed and change your sheets once in a while. It’s all different now.

So, I had escaped the worst of the madness, more or less. I still had one foot on the floor. But then I realised the ending I’d envisaged simply wasn’t going to work. The people in my novel just weren’t prepared to play along with it. They had their own ideas about how it should go. I persevered. I bowed to their greater wisdom. I finally managed to get to the end of the first draft. (They were right. The alternative ending was so much better.) I breathed a sigh of relief. Just another four or five edits and I’d be done. And then, instead of the full-blown spell of madness, the illness began. Something I’ve had reason to observe over the years is how much I somatise emotional pain. As a therapist I never learned the skill of protecting myself enough. I am too empathic. (Could there be such a thing? Yes, when it means you can’t empty the sponge with which you’ve soaked up other people’s angst.) It turns out the same is true when I’m immersed in writing a novel. No wonder I skippity hopped my way through writing short stories years ago, avoiding the worst of it. I feel their anguish, those people I imagined I invented. Well, strange and uncomfortable though it is to contemplate in some cases, they are each of them an aspect of me, so it’s not surprising.

Anyway, if anyone has noticed my absence in this vast empty cinema of blogland, that’s where I have been for the last couple of months. My five meticulous edits took place under a heavy blanket of virus protection (something of an irony in this computer age.) I am referring to an actual virus, one that attacked my body and rendered me mostly mute and immobile for much of the time, with just enough energy to tend to my novel and read all the books I wanted, sustained by the undemanding warmth of friendship and a commitment to be kind to myself.

This past week I have at long last felt my old familiar self returning, and I realised the people in my novel are finally letting me go. I’m taking tentative steps back into social media, and hoping – as my writer friend did, all those years ago – that in the meanwhile I haven’t been forgotten, and my lack of participation has been forgiven. Those of you struggling to keep all the balls up in the air while writing, while managing a work/life balance, while keeping up a social life, while reassuring a partner you are still there for them, while living with pain and illness, while maintaining some degree of equilibrium even when the kids are driving you crazy… well, hopefully you’ll understand.

An interview with author Francis Powell

Photo on 2015-06-01 at 13.00

I met Francis Powell through reading one of his rather quirky, and some might say disturbing, short stories. I don’t mind disturbing, and I liked the dark, witty humour in his story. I was intrigued. Is it true that writers can be known through the things they choose to write about? We sometimes make assumptions based on very little evidence. I decided to interview Francis and find out first hand more about him. Did I succeed? Read on…

L: Francis – let’s start at the very beginning. Where were you born, and where did you live as a child? Did you have an easy childhood?

F: I was born in a “dormitory town” called Reading, not famous for much, apart from a huge Rock festival, and for the fact that Oscar Wilde was sent to prison there and wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’. My family then moved to a farm in the country, in Sussex, not too far from London. I was sent, aged eight, to a boarding school, so I would spend long periods away from my family. Imagine having regular prison sentences imposed upon you as a child. At some of the schools I attended there were psychotic teachers and cruel nasty children. I used to count the days when I could be reunited with my family. I became a recluse in the art room and painting was my salvation. I had a teacher who encouraged me to paint and introduced me to various artists, including Kandinsky. I went from austere harsh boarding schools to Art College, a very different environment.

L: Give me some insight into the man behind the writer, Francis. Are you generally an optimist or a pessimist?

F: Like most people I am a complicated mixture of idiosyncrasies. I can be intense, but at the same time very laid back. I have a steely determination that comes from my mother. I feel maybe I am an outsider trying to fit in and yet I am very anti-establishment. I want to be respected, my work to be liked or even admired, but I don’t receive praise well and feel uncomfortable with it. Some people might say I should see a psychiatrist, but at the same time, I can be very inwardly-calm and rational.

L: So when exactly did you begin writing? And how does your recent work compare with what you first wrote?

F: moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment. I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it…nothing came of it. I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called ‘Rat Mort’ (dead rat). I submitted four short stories for this magazine, encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style…I guess if I compare these stories to earlier efforts at writing…there has been a huge development…I am sure my early attempts were imaginative but raw.

L: What about now – what are your current projects?

F: I am currently feverishly promoting my book Flight of Destiny, which was published in April.

L: What genre do you consider your stories to belong to? Have you ever thought of writing in another genre?

F: I write dark surreal short stories. I have tried children stories, but even these tended to be a bit on the dark side.

L: Have you ever been flattered by a comparison to a well-known author

F: I have been told my work is a bit like that of Edgar Alan Poe. It was a pleasant surprise to be compared in such a way.

L: Do you have a trademark writing style – something that makes your work recognizable?

F: My stories are very descriptive and visual. I would say they are very British in character. I would like to think they are dark, but also have an element of wit…maybe a British dark sense of humour. They are often anti-establishment. There are often reversals, characters people might expect to be bad (like the gangster Gecko in Bugeyes) who come across as being wise and good, and the types people might expect to appear good (for example there are a few preachers in my stories) who come across as the opposite, bad and inhumane. I would like to think I use rich language with sharp powerful sentences. The starts to my stories are also critical, for example my story Bugeyes begins with: Bugeyes was due a life of toil. Seed begins with: Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating. Cast from Hell begins with: There it was: I was to be banished from hell. It is important I start my stories powerfully, but also end them strongly.

L: Do you only write short stories?

F: I am a fully committed short story writer. One day I would like a novel published, but at the moment I just love the format of short stories.

L: What inspired you to put this collection together as your first book?

F: My book grew from building up a body of short stories, similar to my contributions in Rat Mort (the small literary magazine I mentioned). I also had short stories in a magazine called ‘Freakwave’ as well having short stories published on the internet. I was lucky enough to find a publisher who was prepared to put a whole lot of them together.

L: How do you come up with your titles?

F: A lot of my stories revolve around, fate, misfortune. ‘Flight of Destiny’ seemed to encompass a strong notion of this running through the book.

L: Are there any messages in your stories, and if so what are they?

F: There are quite a few. Principally: fight back; don’t let those who oppress you succeed. Fight off those chains and shackles.

L: How much are your stories based on reality, and how much are they based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

F: To some extent my stories are indirectly autobiographical. My life has not been a smooth journey, with many setbacks along the way. I don’t think I consciously draw a line between real events and the fiction I write. I doubtlessly draw from my experiences, good or bad.

L: What books have influenced your life the most? Are some of these different from your own genre of writing?

F: I am not sure books have directly influenced my life – it’s more the people and events surrounding my life.

L: Is there a character in one of your stories that really stands out for you? Could he or she be compared to any well-known literature character?

F: I guess ‘Bugeyes’ for me stands out. He is born into an aristocratic family, with a genetic fault (over-large enormous eyes) and is immediately rejected by his mother and sent to live with a servant on the estate. He is mocked cruelly due to his physical defect, as well as being denied his natural inheritance. He gets revenge in the end.

L: Do you have a favorite author and what is it about them that you admire?

F: Rupert Thompson, author of ‘Dreams of Leaving’ and many other fine books.

L: Are you ever shocked by some of your own writing/ideas?

F: There are some pretty crazy things that go on in my stories. They are surreal and dark and excruciating at times. I wouldn’t say ‘shocked’ but maybe retrospectively sometime in the future I might think did I really write that?

L: Do you see writing as a career?

F: It would be nice…it’s not my career at the moment…I am happy with what I have achieved in many different fields.

L: Were your parents avid readers? Have your family played a part in your writing career to date? How do they feel about your work?

F: My father had a strong work ethic, but when he relaxed he read Shakespeare and listened to Beethoven or Mozart at the same time. My mother certainly is and was an avid reader. My father is dead, but I imagine he would abhor a lot of my stories, as they show religious types in a very negative light, as well as other member of establishment. My mother has read some of my short stories and seemed to like my style.

L: What makes you feel proud of yourself as a writer?

F: Looking at my book, and thinking, I wrote that. I did a reading recently and people seemed to really respond to the story I was reading, that was a nice feeling.

L: How do you come up with the initial concept of a book?

F: Ideas seem to plant themselves in my head and I feel a need to expand on them and develop them. Sometimes newspapers provide excellent sources. I read obscure stories about people stealing other people’s identities, for instance a person who pretends he is a Duke, but in reality he is a fraud.

L: Who designed that amazing cover for your book – how did you choose it?

F: Me…I also did 22 illustrations, one for each story. This took a lot of work…but I am happy with the result…

L: What is the hardest part of being a writer?

F: Getting work published…rejections…Having a different vision to a publisher…many things… It is not about tapping merrily away in front of a typewriter, with a fire burning in the background…there is a lot involved as I am slowly discovering…

L: Do you have any advice for other writers?

F: Stick at it, don’t fall along the wayside.

L: Other than writing do you have any other interests and do they connect up with your writing?

F: As I have explained, I do so many things…write music…make videos…paint…make sculptures from found objects…and I guess a lot of these activities link up…

L: Are there any films that have influenced your writing? What kind do you like?

F: I love films…and I am sure a lot have indirectly influenced my writing…A couple of my favorite films would be ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ and ‘Amadeus’. I like films that are historical, psychological, unusual, films that make me think, films that educate me. Films that are witty.

L: If your stories were adapted into films, which director dead or alive would you want to direct them? Which actors would you like in them? What would be the overriding mood of the film?

F: Let’s dig up Stanley Kubrick; his films were great and varied in subject matter. Let’s put Jack Nicholson in a role, a younger Johnny Depp, alongside Wynona Rider or Christine Ricci – maybe it’s getting a bit confused, and it’s starting to look like a Tim Burton film. David Lynch would do a great job, but apparently he’s not such a nice man…I saw him once in Paris, I went to his art show and was lucky enough to be allowed into his press preview. The mood would be dark…but witty…

L: Do you socialize with other writers or creative people? Do you know any obscure or up and coming authors/or perhaps other creative people who deserve recognition?

F: I am going to start to mix with other writers in Paris. I have been lucky enough to meet a range of talented people during my lifetime. I know many people who deserve recognition for what they do…an artist called Andrew Tyler for example.

L: Thank you, Francis. Just one more question, and I think I can guess the answer, but I’ll ask you anyway… Is there a particular theme you realize is most prevalent in your stories?

F: There are many different themes: injustice, inequality, sibling rivalry, death, torture, it’s all in there.


You can find Flight of Destiny on Amazon: http://www.theflightofdestiny.yolasite.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/flightofdestinyshortstories

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwNl0F6095Q

Father’s Day 2015

Wisdom - Look for it as Silver - Proverb

This Sunday in England it is Father’s Day – a tradition that was begun in America 100 years ago. My father will have been dead for eleven years this year. It seems impossible that so much time has passed. It goes by faster all the time. As I get older I appreciate increasingly the poignancy of life’s ephemeral quality. Now you see it, now you don’t. So you have to make sure you are noticing as much of it as you can while you’re here. Sometimes I fear that there won’t be enough time to do everything I need to do before I go, or say everything I need to say to those I love. For many years now I’ve done my best to keep up to date with them for that reason.


This year I’ve been thinking not so much about my father as my son, Jason. He is father to three gorgeous boys: Alex, Angus and Archie. They are all quite stunning looking lads, much like my son, and now all three of them are bright, funny, articulate teenagers with a great sense of humour. Jason is a good father, a fact I’ve had plenty of time now to observe. He is firm when required and a friend to them when it matters. He is good at setting boundaries and being flexible when that looks like a better option. He is kind, but not sentimental. He gives them plenty of attention and boundless opportunities for physical play and mental exercise when they are with him. He also makes sure they develop their innate skills and keeps a watchful eye on their education. They are lucky boys. They will never know, as Jason had to, what it is like to grow up without a dad.

Jason with Angus and Archie-2013

I admire my son for having managed to work out what’s required of a father without ever having had a healthy model for what that is beyond the age of four. He had my father, his granddad, there in the background, which was some kind of saving grace, and for several years a temporary stepfather who unfortunately provided little in the way of understanding a boy’s emotional needs. Nevertheless, my beautiful, sensitive son somehow survived unscathed, just about, his formative years and adolescence, and became increasingly a lovely, kind, generous and thoughtful man, who would probably laugh off this much praise and ask why I didn’t mention his dark side. It’s not that I don’t know he has one. It’s enough for me to know that he knows about it. There’s nothing worse than someone who is denial about their dark side. Trust me, I know.

snoopy scout-map

One of the things that has seemed for many years to symbolise a precious aspect of my son’s personality is an object he bought as a present for me at a School Bazaar, when he was about thirteen. It’s a smooth, round stone, big enough to fit into my palm and heavy enough to use as a paperweight. It was painted and varnished, and in all the years since then the colours have hardly faded. It shows a picture of Snoopy as Scout Leader leading a couple of Woodstock scouts, with the words inscribed: “All right troops, follow me!” It brought tears to my eyes when he first gave it to me, and has every time I’ve thought of it or looked at it since. For me it revealed how much he had already taken on the mantle of adult male, prepared to take care of his mother and sister and show them the way out of the darkening woods.

Jason's pebble-smaller

Whenever I’ve mentioned it to Jason he’s said: “No, it was just that you were really into Snoopy, and I guessed you’d like it. Nothing deeper than that!” But I’m his mum and a psychotherapist to boot, so perhaps I’m bound to read too much into it – or maybe it’s enough that what I see is true for me. Symbolism is in the eye of the beholder when it comes down to it. But I know what a brilliant support he was to me then and has continued to be, especially in so many practical ways, and with a wonderful skill for lighting up a room with his laughter and optimism. One time a few years ago when we were all going out for a meal as a family, he led us across the street from the restaurant as we walked back to the centre of town to get the bus. We all automatically followed him, chatting away as we went, but then I asked him why he’d crossed the road when he did, as the bus stop was on the side where we were originally. “It was sunny over here,” he said. “Why walk in the shade when you can choose not to?” It’s that kind of remark that makes me realise how wise he is, and how fortunate his boys are to have him as a role model.

follow me troops

Another significant memory I have of my son is of an occasion about ten years ago, on the beach at Brighton. I was collecting stones for my garden to take back with me to Oxford, and every so often he would hand me one, and it was always perfectly in tune with what I wanted. Eventually I said to him: “How come each time you give me the stones that are exactly right?” He shrugged and said: “Well, it was easy. I noticed what you were scanning for, and then filtered for them.” I hadn’t known consciously which stones I was searching for, but he’d observed me closely enough to work it out. I’ve watched him since, and seen how he does that with everyone. He is quick and smart, altruistic and considerate – a great combination. He has developed as a person, in all the ways that matter, and all the ways I’d hoped for him when he was born, and he reminds me of my father more and more. As the years go by my respect for him grows – as a man, and as a friend. And today I’ll be thinking of him with love, as I always do every day, celebrating him as a father, too.


An interview with Nico Laeser


I met Nico Laeser through an indie author group in facebook, but to be honest I would have known him anywhere. We only recently discovered that we almost share a birthday (just a few hours and a good number of years apart) and I was not surprised. We are that rather old fashioned word my father would have used, ascribing to it the highest praise… sympatico – we have read each other’s books and love each other’s style of writing. Nico’s recent novel ‘Infinity: An Anonymous Biography’ is one of the best I have read, and I reviewed it on Amazon earlier this year. http://www.amazon.com/Infinity-Biography-Nico-Laeser-ebook/dp/B00V7QERDW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


Nico is a talented artist, an accomplished writer, and a great wit – another thing we share is a dry, sometimes dark humour. He has also selflessly poured energy, time, and his considerable wherewithal into helping to bring into being the Charity Anthology ‘You’re not Alone’ https://www.facebook.com/yourenotalone2015

I offered Nico a series of ponderables, about his books, his life, his journey and vision as a writer, and to round the interview off, questions about who he would like to invite as dinner guests and what music he would pick as the soundtrack for one of his novels. I hoped he would choose ‘Infinity’ for that, and he did.

I therefore now present to you Nico Laeser, awesome friend, fellow scribe and dream weaver, in his own words…

“In the beginning, the collective energy that some of our species have come to worship became aware of itself and exploded into physical existence, and so the experiment began. 13.75 billion years later during a dark and stormy night, (average nightly forecast for most of England) I was born.

I travelled to Canada in my early twenties, fell in love with the place and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was home. Since I could think and feel I’ve had a passion for art, music, and literature, and have used each like a drug, and as a catharsis, to perform that ever necessary purge of mental and emotional baggage.

For as long as I can remember, I have dreamed stories in instalments. Each night, almost consecutively, the next episode of a story plays in my dream like a movie, and over the years, I began wondering if any of those stories were good enough to share.

I’ve always written stories, some good, some terrible, and like most aspiring authors most of my stories remained unfinished. It was only after setting my mind to writing and finishing an actual novel, that I began to take it seriously. Once I’d finished the first draft of my first full-length novel, I began wondering if it would be good enough to publish. It wasn’t, and I didn’t try. Instead, I put the novel aside, patted myself on the back for having completed the marathon that is writing a novel and set my sights on improving my technique, reading countless books and articles on the craft. By the time I came back to the novel, I had improved enough to pick it apart flaw by flaw, and I did. I tried to fix it, to polish it, but it was too rough. Knowing what I know now, I could have quoted Hemingway and reassured myself that “All first drafts are shit.” Instead, I experienced my first ‘I’m a hack’ slump.

Once I stopped beating myself up, I began again. I wrote a second draft, scrapped it and wrote a new first draft, then a second, and third. For me, there was no greater creative writing teacher than my first book. I rewrote until I was happy, put it away and wrote another novel using the skills I had cultivated from each failed draft. When I returned to my first completed novel, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, and ‘not bad’ was a good start.

I read in almost all genres and find myself inspired by every well written story. My influences are too vast to name all, and it would be unfair to the rest to name just a few. My love for all genres has made it hard for me to choose a genre, or perhaps reluctant to do so. I’m currently working on two novels, one that could easily squeeze into the horror genre, and the other is a dark comedy. I’m not ready to pigeon-hole myself into one genre, but my novels all have a common thread (loose as it may be and in whatever form) of transcendence, but to some degree all stories share this thread.

When I’m not writing, I’m painting, or loosing arrows at a target, or spending quality time with my beautiful wife and children. Even though I left England fifteen or so years ago, I still enjoy British comedy, and am always looking for shows that I’ve missed over the years of my absence from ‘Old Blighty.’ Nothing makes me laugh harder than dry British wit, and intelligent dark comedy.

If I could have a dinner party with guests from any time period, I would invite Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, the full cast of Monty Python, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Ricky Gervais. I would also leave an open invitation out to Charles Darwin and Jesus Christ. It would be an interesting night, but I’m not sure that all would show up, or stay for the whole thing.

If I had to pick a song for ‘Infinity: An Anonymous Biography’ it would be either Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, or ‘Dazed and Abused’ by Seether. Both are tragic and beautiful in their own way, and both move me emotionally, as I hope my novels will for my readers.”


Thank you, Nico. Having listened to this soulful track ‘Dazed and Abused’, I agree it’s the perfect choice.

The other novel by Nico Laeser I have already on my kindle, is ‘Skin Cage’ http://www.amazon.com/Skin-Cage-Nico-Laeser-ebook/dp/B00RYDGWIA/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 It’s such a joy to have a novel waiting on my virtual bookshelf that I know without reservation I will delight in reading.


Nico’s Amazon author page is: http://www.amazon.com/Nico-Laeser/e/B00SF3C732/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1431991295&sr=8-1

For more information, or just to say hi, you can like his author page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nico-Laeser/1439659402974977

Or email him at: http://nicolaeser@gmail.com

The Lesley Hayes Blog

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