Local author Caro Ayre’s latest novel ‘Breathless’ explores the effects of a life-shortening condition, cystic fibrosis. In doing so, it narrates the very human, separate struggles that affect not only the victim but members of her family too, offering the reader multiple insights into others’ lives. But Caro’s personal story as a novelist, evolving from uncertain beginnings to finally bringing a full-length novel into print, is one from which many aspiring writers might learn.
Caro, 65, began writing “on the quiet” 30 years ago. “I would start things, but then not have the courage to take them further,” she said. When a guest at Caro’s B & B, Greenham Court, who was a writer offered some sound advice, particularly about about time-management and breaking down a narrative into ‘manageable chunks’, she realised that it might be possible to write around business and family responsibilities.
What followed was a lengthy process – learning from a writers’ conference, reinventing, drafting, rewriting, discarding – until an idea about “a family living with an ongoing illness” emerged. “Cystic fibrosis (CF) was not something I had much experience of but I had met people with the condition and it gave me options and directions to explore,” Caro explained. “I had a nephew with CF but decided against asking him for advice as I didn’t want him and his family to feel as though I was writing their story. I did, though, approach them for information when I was finishing the novel and needed clarity.”
Completing the book, Caro said, took “four to five years off and on. There’s little time in the summer but I re-read it and made notes about changes I wanted to make. I used the internet – which is an amazing source of information – and the forums for parents of children with CF supplied invaluable insights. I was careful to make it ‘non-medical’ but it’s important to understand that the sufferer does need constant care, physio and medication.”
The novel is written from two different viewpoints – of the teenage victim (Hannah) and her mother. “I didn’t want to write a book which threw CF at the reader in chunks of indigestible information,” Caro said. “It’s about Hannah’s life as an active teenager, beginning to rebel, making decisions for herself whilst living with a life-threatening condition; it’s also about her mother who has an established career but who knows she has to keep her daughter healthy.”
‘Breathless’ is self-published which, according to Caro, “used to be the lowest form of publishing but now, with Kindle Publishing, it’s easy – the main route as it’s so difficult to get major publishing companies to look at one’s work. It means that anyone can order the book anywhere by quoting the ISBN number and as they’re self-published – in small numbers if necessary – the books will continue to be available.” £1 from every copy sold goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Caro has already outlined a sequel to ‘Breathless’ but is not yet certain of its direction; she is certain, though, of having gained the confidence to keep writing. With 2 novels already in print (the first, ‘Feast of the Antlion’, is an action adventure story set in Africa) and others written but not yet published, she is a writer whose own personal story is one to learn from.
Copies of ‘Breathless’ can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk/Breathless-Caro-Ayre/dp/0957222416/ref=tmm_pap_title_0/280-9072266-7765155
Report: Gill Paltridge