I started writing This Holey Life back in 2008. I wanted to write about the grown-up relationship between a sister and her brother. I am interested in the way siblings can revert to childhood roles when they get together as adults.
There’s no one else in the world who knows you quite like a brother or a sister knows you. They were there for the experimental suppers of goulash and lemon meringue pie. They were there at five o’clock on Christmas mornings, opening stockings and tiptoeing with excitement around the house trying not to wake the parents. They were there throughout the shocking hairstyles, the lost cat, the awful boyfriends/girlfriends. They sat alongside you outside the pub with a coke and a packet of cheese and onion crisps while you waited for your dad. They gave you dead legs, brain ache, their last Rolo. They played eye-spy, hide and seek, their heavy metal records too loud. They would wallop you to win an argument but if anyone else dared have a go at you, they would wallop them. They hated you and loved you all at the same time.
As we become adults we may not play hide and seek or wake up in the same house on Christmas mornings. We might have our own families, our own kids, but when we are back together, we have a way of reverting to childhood; our adult behaviour gets dismantled the same way we used to dismantle each other’s toys.
I have two older brothers and I have three children of my own: a daughter with two older brothers. I hope when my kids are adults with their own families that they will be friends and that they will be able to remind each other where they came from and what shaped them.
So, the novel. What if this brother, Martin, came to stay (uninvited) and caused mass disruption in the house? He is still playing the older brother role – annoying, smug and dismissive – and his sister, Vicky, is forced to take a good look at her situation. She has recently and reluctantly become a curate’s wife and is still very much getting used to this new life. She also has three feisty daughters to contend with and is grieving for a lost son. What if this horrible big brother actually manages to help his sister in the way only an older brother can? When push comes to shove, who else in her life could do this?
And why a curate’s wife? Vicky’s husband, Steve, is a plumber when he has his dramatic conversion on the way to Dartford. This has a huge impact on family life and Vicky is resistant to this change. I wanted to explore the issue of new-found faith. I think programmes like Rev are popular not just for the characters but because of the ‘God thing’ that so many of us are afraid to talk about. There are many assumptions about Christians and followers of other faiths. I just wanted to show that these are ordinary people trying to make sense of life. And that life is a journey. And we need someone to give us a piggy back from time to time.
So whether you have an older brother or not, the people who knew us as children could be the ones to help us, even if there are times when you want to scream in their face. And even if you did scream in their face, they would probably be the ones to forgive you.
This Holey Life is published by Legend Press on August 1st and is available to pre-order on Amazon for £3.92