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Howth is the setting for new speculative novel

I Never Said I Was Conor — Waking Up In Howth|Ian R Forman|New Generation Publishing|ISBN: 9781800314542|€9.99

by Ian R Forman

Why write a novel?

Since my novel was published this February, several of my neighbours and friends have asked me why I decided to write a book, although they all understood why I decided to set the story in Ireland.

I didn’t even start to think about writing a novel until I retired about eight years ago, when my son asked me: “OK dad what are you going to do now, you can’t play golf all day every day?” 

My response was to buy an electric and an acoustic guitar and take guitar and singing lessons. This kept me busy for quite a few years and I still enjoy playing today. I then had the good fortune to have my young grandson Aidan stay over several times, at our home in Buckingham UK, and I took the opportunity to make up bedtime stories for him. Aidan was, at that time, a fan of the children’s TV show BEN 10, so I developed a character named Ben Green who, together with his family, went on several adventures to the North Pole, to a desert island, to the jungle, up Mount Everest etc. I realised I enjoyed the creative process as much as he enjoyed listening to the stories and this kindled my desire to write a book. 

Ian R Forman

But what to write about? I’d never written anything that got published before, let alone write a book.

It would be easier to write about a topic I knew something about, so our life story seemed obvious. My wife Mary and I had enjoyed a reasonably busy and varied life, having lived in Canada and Belgium for many years and having worked in and visited lots of different countries. I realised that despite this, our life story was not that exciting and would hold little interest to anyone outside the family, so I put the idea out of my mind at the time, waiting for inspiration.

Nightmare inspiration

Then one night I had a vivid, horrendous nightmare.  In my dream I woke up on a park bench in the seaside village of Howth, and nobody knew me.

I was born and brought up in Howth, where my dad had a fish processing business and shop, and I lived there till my early twenties. Howth was a close-knit village at that time, probably still is, where everybody knew everybody else.  Life for me then was idyllic—I realised and appreciated this, at the time. 

Nobody can ever leave Howth; you might be able to relocate, even to far away countries but your soul never leaves.  

I have been going back there on holiday, with my family, at least once per year and many more times than that in my imagination. My thinking has been forever influenced by my youthful experiences in Howth, especially the bustling life around the fishing boats. Livelihoods depended on the weather and the unpredictable availability of fish shoals—everyone I knew, including me, was a gambler and a risk taker.

In my dream, I woke up to discover that my wife didn’t know me and was married to someone else.  I was told that my son, daughter and grandchildren didn’t exist.  When I discovered my own gravestone, I was convinced that I had gone mad. Only much later, with help from a Columbian professor, did I conclude that I was in a parallel universe.  I then set about trying to prove who I was and to somehow get back together with my ‘stranger’ wife. 

cover painting by Annette Forman

Storyline revealed

When I woke up next morning and eventually stopped shaking from the effects of my nightmare, I realised that this would be a great storyline for my book.  I could tell the story of Mary’s and my real life by comparing it with our family’s life in the Ireland of the parallel universe, where even the religion and politics were different and more inclusive.  

I was able to weave together our two alternative lives: one was true, and the other was a thrilling, frightening, emotional roller coaster. Best of all I could let the story unfold in Howth, a place I know inside out and which is still my favourite place in the world.  

Since publication I have received some very satisfying feedback and reviews. When I think of the comments from some of my neighbours it still makes me smile.  Mike told me that he was enjoying reading the book but was puzzled.

“Ian, do you not realise that you are an engineer.  Engineers just don’t write fictional novels.”

This might be true of course, and it’s also true that I’m not famous with an interesting autobiography—but storytelling is a pleasure, and it gives me a warm feeling to know that people are enjoying my book.

I am Irish, after all.