Chris Doveton - I'm Fine, Thanks
Interview by Charlotte Stephens
Bath-based author, Chris Doveton, has just launched his third book entitled “I’m fine, thanks” - a touching memoir exploring one man’s journey from grief and destruction, to a self-realisation that there is always hope. Chris and Anne enjoyed a loving marriage in the prime of their lives when Anne is diagnosed with a rare and fatal genetic disease. For ten years, Chris and Anne endure this terrible secret alone. After Anne’s death, Chris, ravaged by crippling grief, realises that his survival depends upon him ridding himself of his stiff upper lip.
This book pulls back the veil on male depression and the challenges of being a full-time carer. It also shows that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to keep the faith.
Chris, what is your history as an author, and what drew you to writing in the first place?
“I began writing late in life, and quite by accident! Following major surgery on my right shoulder, which left me incapacitated for many months, I decided to join a writing school in Oxford. The work was interesting and creative, and I began to write my first book, ‘The Spanish Dream’, as part of the course work. The book is based on my personal story, about the disasters which many people suffered during the boom and bust period of buying property in Spain, fuelled by corrupt developers and Town Halls. I was one of the lucky ones, and sold my villa in Mijas before the 2008 crash.
After the end of the two year course, I decided to self-publish the book with the help of my tutor. It was an invaluable experience and taught me a great deal about the pitfalls of becoming an author and publishing your first novel.
This gave me the bug, and I’ve since enjoyed using authorship as a creative, recreational and emotional outlet, and hope to use my experiences to help others.”
Your latest read, ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’, was released on 28th August - what motivated you to write this book?
“Following the publication of my second book ‘In the World’s Shadows’, I felt that whilst the book was well-received and enjoyable to write, it didn’t cover certain events in my life - which I later realised were important to share.
I felt compelled to write ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’ and share the traumas of my life with anyone who might be suffering from bereavement, loneliness, depression, sickness, the breakdown of a relationship or is simply bewildered in this fragile world. I hope readers will be interested to learn from my experiences, and that I can help others to find solace from opening up and dropping the shackles of the stiff upper lip.”
What is the significance of the book’s title?
“Perhaps one of the most-used responses when asked ‘how are you?’ is a simple ‘I’m fine, thanks’. This ends any conversation, and avoids talking about the one thing that should be discussed - how we’re really feeling. So often, we just cannot open up and share our innermost feelings with anyone.
The original title was going to be ‘A journey through grief’, but I felt that ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’ would resonate more with those who need it the most.”
I felt compelled to write ‘I’m Fine, Thanks’ and share the traumas of my life with anyone who might be suffering from bereavement, loneliness, depression, sickness, the breakdown of a relationship or is simply bewildered in this fragile world.
How long did the book take to complete?
“I started on the book in June 2018. As the book was going to be a very emotional journey and difficult to write, and my ambition was to get published, come what may, by a professional publisher, I decided to employ a good ghost writer. I was interviewed and recorded over many months. I found this an extremely rewarding and satisfying way to work, and has resulted in a book that deals with a very personal journey in a way that many will be able to relate to.”
Was there a certain part of the book which you found more difficult to work on?
“The hardest part for me to cover was without doubt when Anne, my wife, was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia (similar to motor neurone disease) at the age of 50, and told by the consultant she only had ten years to live and there was no cure for her illness. Reliving the experience of turning our home into a nursing home was not easy, but something that was so vital to explore to support the overall message of the book.”
What types of book do you love to read? Do you have a favourite book or author?
“I enjoy reading spy novels by Ben Macintyre, as well as Robert Harris, C S Lewis, Julian Barnes, Kübler Ross (Grief and Grieving), The New Testament, particularly about St Paul and his journeys, and listening to ‘The Bible in One Year’ with Nicky Gumbel and David Suchet.”
What advice would you give to someone considering writing a memoir?
“It is difficult to get any book published, let alone a memoir, biography or non-fiction work!
Do not use vanity publishers! If you do not have the right literary skills and funds, then I would suggest using a ghost writer to help. Choose carefully, and carry out a thorough search on the genres they are familiar with. The market is limited, and unless you are well-known and have the choice of boutique publishers it will always be an uphill and disheartening battle to get your book published. I was lucky, and The Book Guild Publishing have been excellent, especially with marketing - the key to the success of selling your book. It is most important to use social media to promote your book, and if possible use a marketing consultant to help you.
Despite the challenges, I’d say that it’s been an incredibly rewarding and cathartic process, and knowing that I may be able to help others in similar situations is truly humbling.”
If you could choose one message that readers take away from the book, what would it be?
“I hope that the book will provide encouragement to anyone facing illness, sorrow or bereavement. I hope that readers take onboard the message that, however dark things are, life can become worth living again. I like to remember the words of St Paul; ‘When I am weak, then I am strong.’ Never give up, even in your darkest moments; there is always hope, and nothing is impossible.”
Q&A by Charlotte Stephens.
I’m fine, thanks
by Chris Doveton
Book Guild Publishing Ltd
Paperback: £ 7.99
For more information, visit www.chrisdoveton.com