Below is a blog from one our 2021 authors Toby Roberts. Toby’s book is called My Two Mums and a Dad and is a memoir about growing up in the very conservative Hills District of Sydney with a gay mum. It is insightful and quite hilarious and we are really looking forward to publishing it.
“What if I call you Don?” By Toby Roberts
I’ve been writing for a long time and come close to publishing deals before, but never cleared the final hurdle. In recent years I’d mostly given up on publishing and just focused on writing for fun. Finally I recorded all my childhood memories, honing in on the most embarrassing ones, and of course it was this book that attracted the attention of Bad Apple Press. Of all the stories I’d written, it was the one saying awful things about my family members that was going to get published.
My initial plan was to sneak the book out without too much fanfare and hope my family never heard about it, but Sam shot that down.
“You have to get everyone’s consent before we’ll put it out,” she told me. The tone was friendly but firm, like a nurse administering a flu shot. So began the awkward process of letting my parents and sibling know what I really thought about them. I started with the easier people. My memoir exposes a lot of my mother’s dirty laundry but she is slow to anger so I figured the book would be out before she got cross.
“I’ve got some news, Mum,” I said nervously over the phone. “I finally got a publishing deal.”
“Oh how amazing, darling! What a marvellous thing.”
“Well, maybe wait until you’ve read it.”
I sent her a draft for review and there was a long, awful pause in communication while she digested it. Eventually she came back with a list of comments and changes, chief among them being her concern that she might come across as ‘a good time girl’. She made it sound like I’d depicted her as a prostitute. While the book does trawl through her sex life, I don’t remember there being any suggestion that money changed hands. Once I got over my indignation at having to make changes, I remembered that she hadn’t invited this intrusion into her bedroom, and if I had to edit some scenes for the sake of modesty, I should at least pretend to be grateful for getting her permission at all.
My older brother, whose experiences with drugs, petty crime and venereal disease are all documented in excruciating detail, came back within 24 hours saying, “You should have gone harder”. My mate Dave, who is described having sex in the Beecroft village green, was a bit more circumspect:
“Yeah, I’m not sure about this one, Tobes. Maybe leave that bit out.”
“You sure? It’s kind of funny.”
“I suppose. Not really for me though…”
“What if I call you Don?”
“Yeah, okay. Good name.”
So far, there was no pattern to the reactions, and I’d given up trying to predict them, but I was pretty sure Dad would shit himself. He is the ogre in the story and there’s no hiding from that. In other cases, people are given some redeeming features, but Dad’s come so late in the piece, some people might have given up on him by then (a bit like us kids, really). I sent him the draft over email and hid behind the couch waiting for the detonation. In the end, his response was rather mild. He described the book as a ’clear-eyed memoir’, which I took to mean ‘reasonably accurate’, and also vindicated my description of him as smarter than me. Of all the many allegations (including alcoholism, neglect and violence), there was only one he objected to – “You know I actually trained that dog, Toby, you should change that bit”. So in other words, “The stuff about me being a drunk maniac is all fine, but change the bit about the dog”.
One of the more peripheral characters took offence on behalf of others. “It’s very personal. Very intimate, Toby. Have you thought about people’s privacy?”
“They’ve all approved it now,” I said.
“Have you thought about, maybe, just making copies for the family?”
“So, you mean, not publishing it?”
“No, no, I mean, it’s still published. Just a smaller circulation.”
“Like, five people?”
“So, kind of publishing, but not really publishing.”
“Yes, that’s it, exactly.”
“No, I hadn’t thought of doing that.”
In the end, I managed to get everyone over the line without having to remove too much of the text, and I drew breath for round two – the editing process with Bad Apple Press…
Stay tuned for more from Toby Roberts in 2021. Need more information go here