The main character of my first book, Road to Nowhere, who also remains central to the other two books of the Transitions series, is Geoff Foster. He was the first “person” of my inner writing family to emerge. One of the main contributions to the development of his character is that he is physically disabled, with his left side underdeveloped and with little voluntary control, and also that he is prone to health problems. That’s the way he was when he first took shape in my head, apparently without intentional input from me. I have often puzzled about this. I have experience of physical and mental health problems, but not of physical disability. So why is that so central to Geoff’s character? Was it a commonality with the way people react to all who are “different” in some way? Certainly, both Geoff and I know about those, from suggestions that, really, the issue was all rather overhyped to get sympathy and escape responsibility, to the opposite extreme of embarrassing pity and the implication of being too delicate to do anything independently. That is part of it, I think. It shows in Geoff’s resentment of any of the special consideration he has to accept at times because of his disability and his health problems, in his anger at his own body, in the hurt he feels at the way his family and others use his needs as pawns to justify their own actions, and in his frustration at the unspoken assumptions about what he can and can’t do for himself.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to it than that. It niggled at me through our early written conversations, which preceded and eventually evolved into Road to Nowhere. Finally, I asked him directly, “Why did I write you with half a body?”
His answer took me completely by surprise, as his incisive questions and unexpected insights often do. He answered, “You wrote me with half a body because you have half a life.”
I was stunned. “What is that supposed to mean?”
He gave me a sidelong look. “What about that childhood you can’t remember?”
That made even less sense. “What does that have to do with your disability?”
He smiled at me enigmatically and said, “Keep writing. You’ll see.”
So began not only a novel, but also a journey into my own half-life; my own inner disability, to phrase it a little over-dramatically. It is one which continues to this day.