Like many people, I guess, I had for years this repetitive vague thought, “I’m going to write a novel one day!” And, of course, like many, it remained just a vague, occasional idea that I never really took seriously in the moment. Then, one morning I woke up and realized that now it was time to start. I hadn’t thought about writing for ages, but it seemed that whilst sleeping I’d dreamt it was time.
I was travelling back from Europe that afternoon, and on the plane I got my laptop out and just started writing. I had no plan – no plot, no characters even, but I just started. I wrote around a thousand words and that became my daily benchmark. From then on, my Protestant work ethic well to the fore, I made sure that I wrote a minimum of a thousand words each day no matter where I was. Mostly I wrote in cafes, often on the train or the bus, when at Leela usually in my pine lodge.
It seemed easy. I’d heard all about writer’s block but nothing like this appeared to disturb me. I just got my laptop out, opened up the Google doc where the novel was, and continued, usually reading the last few paragraphs to get back in the flow.
Slowly the plot and setting came. Slowly the characters formed and developed. I realised that what I really wanted to capture was something of the energy of the Osho and Veeresh therapy groups that I’d taken part in years before. This was important for me. I felt that there was really very little written record of these events, workshops where it felt like you never really slept and never really knew what kind of crazy stuff the workshop leader would throw at you next.
The therapy scene for me had changed a lot since the late nineties and early 2000s and these kinds of workshops seemed to have slowly died out. I wanted to capture something of what it felt like to be a participant, to create a testament to this scene. And of course, being me, I wanted to inject some humour and lightness into it all, and plenty of sex, which anyway had always seemed to me to be a substantial part of many participant’s motivation to attend!
I wrote one to two thousand words daily, and after nearly exactly two months it was complete. I’d written nearly 100,000 words, close to what I figured was the upper limit for a novel of this genre. Then began round after round of copy-editing, trying to get the whole thing tight. It wasn’t so difficult to do, but it was very repetitive. Somewhere along the way I did a creative writing course, just to grasp better some of the technical aspects of this style of fiction. Plus I got some critical assessment from someone in the industry. Curiously enough, the plot and dialogue needed virtually no work, but over the next few months I worked unrelentingly on the narrative, the thread that holds everything together.
Finally, I got it into a state that I felt satisfied with. It had taken two months to write but another seven to get the narrative up to scratch. I self-published as paperback and eBook straight away, having learnt that only around 1 out of every 4,000 manuscripts submitted to agents really makes it, and that the publishing process was amazingly time-consuming. I’ve been selling the book hand to hand at Leela, and also via Amazon, and love it every time someone buys a copy.
The novel follows the fortunes of various characters as they move through an intense seven day Therapy & Meditation Retreat. We meet Ed, the loveable loser still living with his Mum, who longs to break free. We meet Cindy, the emotionally messed-up but stunningly attractive Yoga teacher. We meet wannabe playboys, Tantric novices, and people on revenge trips. And we meet the two lead therapists, Chandani and Blake, outspoken and wild, living each moment to the full. Plus of course we meet the Tantric guru holding the space, Swamiji, a fictional character very loosely based on Osho.
As the days of the retreat pass, so things heat up considerably. Progressively the participants begin to spin out, their social masks breaking open, revealing all the conflicts and repressed emotions within. I very much enjoyed upping the pace of the novel to match, doing my best to convey the emotional roller coaster workshop participants find themselves on, sleep-deprived and driven to near the edge.
Somewhere in the mix, I included a lot of what I consider to be useful therapeutic info, particularly concerning sex and relating. Stuff that I figure it’s just handy to know. I’m really happy that so many people who’ve read the novel have written to tell me just how useful and fascinating they found it, aside of its entertainment value.
Learn more, buy the paperback or eBook at ashram-ashram.com