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We’re here to talk about A Shaman In Kensington Square - the first book you’ve published?
Yes. It’s the first book I’ve published but it wasn’t the first book I tried to write.
When did you start thinking about doing writing? I started writing this story about 6 years ago after my sister came back from Mexico and told a group of us a story about jumping mouse.
So what is the story of jumping mouse? It’s told in so many ways but it’s basically about this mouse who lives with all the other mice and while he’s foraging he hears this noise and he can’t get it out of his head. So one day he stops collecting food for his family and goes to find out what the noise is. But he knows he shouldn’t because it’s so dangerous and all mice know that the big black dots in the sky are after them. Anyway he goes to find out about the noise. He can’t help himself.
It turns out it’s a roaring river. He gets to cross the river via a frog but has to lose one of his eyes in payment. Then he finds another mouse. A mouse who has grown fat and content because he’s found a safe place to live where there is everything a mouse could need. So the little mouse stays. And soon gets very fat too. But he still wonders about what else is out there, and in the distance he sees a mountain and he wants to go and see what it is. The older mouse tries to dissuade him because he has everything there and it’ll be dangerous but the mouse goes anyway and he’s offered help by a fox. But again he has to lose an eye.
So he arrives at the mountain-top cold and scared and blind. And the fox leaves him.
He hears a ‘wooshing’ sound and he thinks it is surely the end. But he realises he has done things no other mouse has and he gives up to his destiny.
Suddenly something picks him up and he feels the wind on his face and he suddenly opens his eyes and he is the black dot in the sky. He has become the eagle.
It’s a great story.
It suggests we are all on this journey. Some more brave than others.
Of course that’s just part of the story that’s told throughout. But the other characters I envisaged being at different stages on this journey.
Where is it set?
It’s set in a lovely posh square in London. The area is Kensington so I called it Kensington Square.
So is that the Kensington Square in London?
No, this is one based on Edwardes Square, also in Kensington
And who are the other main characters?
Apart from the Shaman who tells the story of jumping mouse there’s Janet who is retired and in her 70s, married to Roger who is an ex-Brigadier. She’s still very beautiful. I imagined someone like Honor Blackman when I was writing about her. Someone who still has the female allure. Anyway Malcolm, a neighbour in his 40s, is in love with her and her dilemma is what to do, especially as she has found out she’s got a terminal illness.
Then there’s Sarah. She’s left her husband and kids in the States because of abuse and has come to the square in Kensington because her mother has left her a dilapidated house. She’s seen it as her chance to get away and get herself sorted so she can bring her kids back. Her husband Richard comes to find her and bring the kids, forcing her to try to go on a family holiday to Tenerife.
Doug also lives on the square. He is a very successful architect who is very lonely and finds himself in back rooms of gay bars where at least he can get some physical contact. He find out about Janet’s love affair and is very shocked that she could do this to Roger.
Then there’s Gayle (pronounced Guy-lee). A Shaman from Peru who has come over to find a plant that he’s been told could be somewhere in Kensington. He stays in the square’s garden for a few nights until Sarah invites him to stay with her and so a short but sweet love affair begins.
Alba Lewis is an MBA graduate, a student of tai chi and a teacher of qigong, director of a consultancy and founder of a creative website - All That I Am. She is also an author of two novels and runs a small publishing company - AlbaBooks
It’s taken me almost 10 years to get to a point where I can write without judging my work, either by thinking it’s crap or by wondering what my friends, colleagues, family will think about me if they read it. I even had delusions of grandeur when I started (I laugh now as I remember). I’d dream that I’d be interviewed by Terry Wogan about my writing. It wasn’t a pleasant dream. It was one of exposure and people pointing at me. And all of these things had a clear goal. To stop me trying.
But I wanted to try. Even with failure as the most probably outcome. It’s taken 10 years to continually push myself to a café to make myself write. I would offer an answer to my negative mind which always got in there first, “You wont be able to write anything so there’s no point in going” or “who do you think you are trying to do what people far better at writing don’t ever achieve?”. And the answer that I finally came up with was very simple. “Well, I’m going to sit in a café with my note pad and pen for 2 hours even if I don’t write a word.” And that’s what I would do. I call it the donkey in me. The part that still plods on regardless of what the mind says. And you know what. I would write. Perhaps not for the whole 2 hours. But I would write.
Personally I never let myself read the stuff I wrote. At least not as I was writing. That was a sure way to stop the process there and then. I’d try to write the story first. Get down as much as I could before I went back to analyse it’s value.
And as this decade is over some things have made themselves apparent. I can write. I don’t judge it. And it appears that people seem to like it. And you know what? That’s good enough for me.
I’ve also become far more interested in each of us as creative beings. So many, including me, think that we can’t create. And we stop there. We don’t see if we can or can’t, we don’t put in any time to get better at creating (though we put inordinate amounts into work and things that ultimately we admit aren’t that important to us).
And my view is, well we’re wrong. What is probably more accurate is that we are not all able to create something that’s perfect. In fact only very few can do that. And that’s what we shy away from, not being perfect.
So that got me thinking. Imperfect versus perfect. Somewhere in between feels like the mystery of it all. I can’t be sure, but as I type I get a bit of excitement inside. Like I’m on to something. We don’t want it to be imperfect and we are pretty sure we can’t attain perfection. But that space. That gap in between. Umm. I think that might be the magical bit inside all of us.
So the how is about giving it a go. But not just once. Committing to doing it. Regularly. Building a habit so that our minds don’t keep telling us it’s rubbish. Even for 5 minutes a day. A sketch, a poem, a song, a tune, a description about the person who sits across from you on the train or bus, a photo and a made up story, a fairy tale, an idea for some photos you might do of the place you live, a joke, a video of your thoughts on something you’ve seen or heard.
All I’m saying is that I think you’ve got something to say. And I reckon quite a few of us would be interested in seeing it.
Maybe we won't get to be millionnaires. But then again maybe we will.
The internet. Come on. This is what this global community’s really about. Sharing and exchanging stuff. I’m guessing that the creative side of us is actually the side that we can all relate to no matter where we’re from or what our backgrounds are.
Tell your stories in whatever way you want. And trust that there are people like me out there that want to hear them.
You don’t have to write a book. Maybe that’s not something that appeals, but go to our free website www.allthatiam.co.uk and join a growing community of people that want to have a go at expressing themselves.read more