‘The fear stopping me from writing my family history’

Jul 01, 2019
Heather struggles to get the stories of her father written into a book. Source: Getty Images

Over the Top with Jim was a paperback I read many years ago. It was written by Hugh Lunn. Lunn was born in 1947 in Brisbane, Queensland. He’s a journalist and worked for the Daily Mirror in London before snaring a job at Reuters. That took him to all sorts of places, including Vietnam and Jakarta.

I found this book in a second-hand book store in Sydney. It caught my eye and, as I flicked through the pages, I was hooked. Over the Top with Jim is his childhood memoir and is the all-time bestselling childhood memoir in Australia.

I did a creative writing course at the local high school some time ago. While it rewarded me with a certificate acknowledging my completion of the course, it didn’t really provide me with the ‘next step’. I went on to write articles for some women’s magazines and was even paid for my contribution on one occasion. But I was still a bit ‘stuck’ for what to do.

That’s when I decided I would write to Hugh Lunn. Imagine my surprise when I received a reply. In my letter, I briefly mentioned that I’d been born in India and that my father was in the British Police Force. I gave some details about the sorts of adventures my dad had. I also discovered that his mother — who we knew as being Polish — was born in India, but she didn’t seem proud of that fact.

Lunn told me it would make a good story. Something I’ve been told on several occasions since. His advice was to record my father’s stories whenever I was with him. My father was thrilled about the idea, however he died before we had much of an opportunity to get many of his stories down.

As hooked on writing as I am, the thought of writing the number of words required for a novel scares me. I find short stories much easier to tackle. I remain hopeful that one day I’ll have enough words together to turn it into a book.

Do you have any fears stopping you from doing something you love? What advice do you have for this author?

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