Friday, 27 April 2012

How I came to write 'Funnily Enough'

I was directing a drama serial for the BBC when I fell ill with ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The doctor at work sent me home to my parents’ farm, telling me to keep a diary whilst I recovered. I not only recorded the funny things that happened to me over the course of a year but made sketches, drawing the people and animals around me.

Daphne Neville being photographed with her otters

Years later, when I was really much better, I felt urged to type this diary up. Having done so I flew to Kenya with the work on a disc, only to have my bag stolen in the Masai Mara. Our tents had been slashed open while we slept. I decided to search the bush around the camp and by some miracle found my discarded bag with the disc still inside.

My palm top had vanished. I couldn’t afford to buy a lap top, but I finished adapting the diary, into what I hope is a readable, humorous book, on a school computer in South Africa. I sat on one of those tiny plastic chairs made for infants, typing away for all I was worth. Whenever the teachers had a break I gave them tuition on how to use Microsoft Word in exchange for the use of their PC.

Sophie Neville, Chronic Fatigue, Sundrome CFIDS

I had a watercolour, I'd once painted at my parents' house, that I thought I could use for the cover but Funnily Enough took me much longer to make into a book than I ever imagined. The original diary had great gaps when I had been too ill to write anything. It wasn't very funny.

Just as I was getting rather stiff on a tiny plastic chair, Johanna Mutshudi, the headmistress of the primary school, asked me if I could keep the computer safely in my room over the two month summer holiday, which falls over Christmas in South Africa. I turned down party invitation to keep typing, sending out drafts to be checked by the real characters who appear in the pages.

At one stage I stopped writing and said, 'Lord, this is taking ages. Do you really want me to spend so much time on this?' Immediately a verse from the Old Testament came into my head. I looked it up:   

"Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it'"
Habakkuk 2:2

This was in 2001. I thought the word tablet rather old fashioned but kept writing. When I finished, I immediately started work on the sequel, Ride the Wings of Morning followed by Makorongo's War.

In 2011 I went to China on a delegation with the Bible Society. We were taken around the vast factory where China's bestseller is printed. There, on the first press, was my verse: Habakkuk 2:2.

I returned to England and started to format Funnily Enough for publication. I now have it on an electronic devise called a tablet. And I run around with this in my back pocket.

'Funnily Enough' by Sophie Neville a bestseller on Amazon Kindle

I hope that what I've written will bring light, encouragement and laughter to many. It was originally designed as an undemanding holiday read or an illustrated book you can give to anyone stuck in bed with 'flu. I have it on my I-phone now, accessed via a Kindle app. It is great to have book on your phone. It gives you something to dip into on the train or if you get stuck for hours on the motorway.

My palm top computer was eventually returned to me by the son of the Masai who must have stolen it. He had been convicted my writing and sent it back from Alaska where he was at university. Funnily enough someone living in Alaska is currently reading my Blog ~

'Funnily Enough' by Sophie Neville on Amazon Kindle

Illustrated with 64 sketches from the original diary Funnily Enough is available from Amazon books, on Kindle, (£1.92) and direct from in hardcover (£12.60) in paperback (£7.99) and  to order from your library or bookshop – ISBN:9781466213487.

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