This was published in the Telegraph on 1 Aug 2012. Visit there for the full text
I am not expecting anyone to feel sorry for me but when friends ask how it feels to be a debut novelist who has also been longlisted for the Man Booker prize, I have to admit that my response has confused me. I am so overwhelmed, so delighted, so honoured and so surprised, I have come out in a violent cold.
The story of Harold Fry and his unlikely pilgrimage began as an afternoon play for radio. For many years I have been writing plays and adapting novels for Woman’s Hour and the Classic series. So this was originally a three-hander play, broadcast one sunny afternoon on BBC Radio 4. It starred Anton Rogers, Anna Massey and Niamh Cusack.
I don’t normally dedicate a play to someone but this was different. My father had spent years fighting cancer of the head and neck. He had numerous operations and he was reduced and reduced and reduced. By the end, he had a growth so big under his eye that it hurt to look at him. I went to visit him after the last operation and found him propped up in a plastic chair beside the bed, wearing his jacket and tie, just like my character Harold Fry.