The Story that Wrote Itself

June 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Cecily PatersonThis is the first of my special guest blogs! I’ve asked some of my author friends to blog about the first book they ever wrote/had published.

Today our blogger is Cecily Paterson. Cecily is the author of seven books, including her memoir Love Tears & Autism, which won third place in the 2012 Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards. Her YA novel, Invisible, recently reached semi-final status in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award. Her latest novel is Love and Muddy Puddles, available online.Love and Muddy Puddles

When I was in my twenties I worked for a very smart, very capable, very generous man in his sixties. Our office always celebrated birthdays and when it was my boss’s turn to blow out the candles, I cheekily asked him, “So, how old are you, David?”

It was supposed to be slightly naughty; to shine a spotlight on the fact that I was young and he was old, that my hair was dark and his was greying. It was supposed to be a dig in the ribs at his expense.

But the joke turned out to be on me.

“I don’t know how old I am,” he said.

“You’re kidding, right?” I said. I wasn’t sure if this was his idea of being funny.

“No,” he said. It was true. He hardly ever joked. “I really don’t know how old I am.”

“How can you not? What are you talking about? Tell me what’s going on?” I spurted. Everyone else in the office stopped munching cake and joined in the questions.

He smiled at our faces and gave us some very vague, general nothings about being an orphan and being adopted and having no papers, but he laughingly refused to answer any more specific questions and let our mouths hang open at the beginning of a story that he clearly was never going to tell.

I thought that was that.

Six years later, after I had left that job and had two babies, I got a call.

“It’s time to write my biography,” he said. “I wonder if you’d like to do it.” He added: “It is a fairly interesting story.”

Well, yeah!

With a publisher lined up and the plot sorted out, I wasn’t about to say no. Really, the only question was one he asked me pretty early on.

“How long do you think it will take you to write?”

I was conservative. After all, there was research to do. People to talk to. Things to Find Out. Plus all the writing. And my time was limited, with a six year old at school and a two year old at home.

“Um, maybe 18 months?” I said.

A week later I did a pregnancy test, and revised my estimate.

“It’ll be more like eight months.”

Never Alone Honestly? The story wrote itself. His childhood (and subsequent career) was even more interesting and astounding than I could have guessed. And I was delighted when the publisher rang to tell me that both he and his wife had cried when they read it.


About two weeks after the book was finished, my third baby was born, and about two months after that, Never Alone: the remarkable story of David and Robyn Claydon was published. I can tell you which was the easier labour! Even more exciting, it was shortlisted in the following year’s Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards. (John Dickson won. But hey, no surprises there.)

I’m grateful to David Claydon three times over; first because he took a chance on a young, green graduate years ago and actually gave me a job; second, because he entrusted his incredible story to me to tell, ten years later; and third, because writing that book brought my dormant dream of ‘being a writer one day’ to life. I learned that I could write a book, that I could, indeed, tell a story and that I could, actually, meet a deadline.

Never Alone is still in print and can be ordered through bookshops or direct from Acorn Press (not the original publishers). It’s a good yarn, though I still say the childhood stuff in the first half is definitely the best bit.

Cecily is offering a free book to anyone who comments on this blog! She will offer an ebook from the bookstore on her website. Go to to see what is available and make sure you comment below so that you’re entered in the draw.



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