‘It’s a Challenge: The life and adventures of Alan Carter’ My book goal for 2023

Hi everyone

Those of you that have known me a little while may know that I am currently working on a book about my late father, Alan Carter.

My dad was a larger-than-life figure, who was a role model to me and many others. I’ve decided that this is the year that I need to finish the book, as of course, memories are fading. The people I need to speak to that remember my dad are getting older, and I just need to get this done. 

I have a few chapters under my belt already, and they were enjoyable to write. I enjoyed researching about my dad’s grandparents as I didn’t know too much about them. Even my Dad’s own father, he hadn’t told us very much about him growing up, so it was interesting for me to explore why that was the case.

Most helpfully though, my dad had written several detailed accounts of highlights from his childhood and youth. These were invaluable as they were rich in detail and full of mischievous exploits. Having these accounts, plus the input from my dad’s younger brother, Chris, meant that writing about the early part of my dad’s life was effortless, I could let his words do the talking.

The next couple of chapters were ok too, I have my own memories of growing up, so have been able to draw on those. The later chapters I’ve been finding much harder. I left home pretty much at the age of 18 to go travelling and then off to university, so I don’t have the same first-hand lens through which to view everything. 

Also, I hit a particular block that lots of biography/memoir writers hit. You can’t cover a person’s whole life chronologically, as it falls into too much repetition. You need those natural story arcs and themes to carry it through. I had an idea of themes to pick up for the second half of my dad’s life, but with an exceptionally busy year last year work-wise I had no mental space left for creativity. So, this is the year.

I have recognized for a long time that I need some professional input to help me with this task. I have looked at various book coaches over the last couple of years, but no-one seemed exactly right. I have now found a book coach that is a good fit. We had our first meeting a week ago (which was amazing) and she gave me some great suggestions to the many questions I had about how to proceed.

And that’s also the reason for this blog. Now that I have a plan, to have the manuscript written by July, and the book published (I’ll be self-publishing) by November, I need to connect with potential readers! If you are someone that will be interested in the book, please hit follow on this blog, as I’ll be using this blog to update progress and announce when it’s ready.

Also – if you were a friend of my dad’s or worked with him, and you have a story or experience to share – please do get in touch, I’m actively looking to fill in some gaps and to paint a picture of the fabulous life that he made along with so many of you.

Best wishes


My book project – 1 year in

I started last year with a goal to write a book. Not just any book, but a biographical memoir of my late Father. I have not written a book before, and certainly not anything as complex as an account of another person’s life. Still, it was something I felt compelled to do, and, thanks to the encouragement of my husband, I ‘announced’ to my family what I was doing. That was the first step, and it took some courage.

I had no idea how to go about it. The longest thing I have written, in a long-time, is a blog, like this. That I know how to do. A biography? No idea.

I did some research, I tried to find a guide or how-to manual. There wasn’t one for this kind of book. I have read quite a few biographies and autobiographies, and took my early steps following some of their formulas – start with the background of the person in question, their parentage.

This set me off on a quest to gather together as much information as possible. That done, I started writing, and I soon discovered that for something like this, a biography, written by a close relative – I am not ‘neutral’. I wanted to include my thoughts, my insights, my analysis. I needed to find my voice.

While I have been struggling with the process, I have had moments of wonder. There were characters in my Father’s family tree where information was a bit light, and I had this feeling that it does not tell the whole story if you only talk about the known rather than exploring the unknown.

I took some time to investigate the key characters where I had less information, and I had a few delightful surprises to my enquiries, including responses from the school where my Grandfather attended, including a detailed cricket match report that described his unique left-handed bowling action. I also had replies from the London Transport Museum clarifying the jobs that my Great-grandfather (on my Grandmother’s side) had.

Still, there were serious questions that needed to be asked about one of the principal characters in the piece, my Father’s father. He died when I was 5 so I don’t have many memories of him, and my Father didn’t say too much about him, and his carefully chosen words revealed more in what they didn’t say than what they did.

My natural curiosity kicked in, and I wanted to understand this person, their upbringing, and see them as three-dimensional. I looked closer into his family life, and one discovery led to another, finally bringing me into contact with my late Father’s second cousin, Mandy. She has this last year done a forensic job in researching my grandfather’s family tree, finding the missing link to my South African great-grandmother’s parentage. This was a staggering find, and something my father and his mother had searched for on and off for over 50 years.

On this journey I have had time to properly reflect on precious letters held in the family. Letters written by my great grandfather to his wife, written in the trenches from the Battle of Ladysmith, in South Africa, where the British Army were be-sieged by the Boers for 17 weeks. Letters the same man wrote to his son 25 years later, after he left for Capetown, South Africa to start a new life. Written weekly, they show my great-grandfather’s demise as he gradually becomes ill and eventually writes his final letter, shaky and in pencil.

I still have many unknowns in writing this book. How to weave together lots of information to form a narrative. What to put in, what to leave out. How much detail. What to do where there are gaps. How many chapters. What chapters. How will I actually publish it.

There’s so much still I don’t know. But all I know is that even part-way through, this has been a fascinating project for me, and I have learnt so much.

So, if you have a project in mind, personal or work-related, don’t be put off if it is big and scary. You can chip away at it one step at a time. You can learn as you go. And sometimes the rewards are great before you’ve even reached the finish line.