Today I am happy to welcome author David G. Hallman as a guest blogger. I met David on twitter earlier this summer and read his moving memoir August Farewell. David's debut novel Searching for Gilead is now also available. Take it away, David.
My current writing career is totally unexpected.
During my professional working life, I wrote five books most of which were academic in nature and focused on my subject area of environmental ethics. The one exception theme-wise was a book on AIDS that grew out of a 1989 international conference that I coordinated.
I took early retirement and looked forward to a more relaxed lifestyle from the previous thirty years much of which I had spent traveling around the world involved in UN negotiations on climate change. I had no intention of doing further writing.
Then life, rather dramatically, intervened in my plans.
Bill, my partner, was suddenly diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. He died sixteen days after we received the diagnosis. We had been together as a gay couple for thirty-three years.
About six weeks after Bill’s death, I found myself becoming exceeding anxious that I would forget the details of those excruciating two weeks while he laying dying in our home. That journey was intense, profound, and spiritual. I became convinced that I needed to record it for myself so that I could revisit it in years ahead – something like how we treasure photo albums. If I forgot the details it felt to me like I would be losing Bill a second time.
So I began writing a chronology of those sixteen days. As I did, I kept being reminded of experiences that we had had together over our thirty-three years together. I started integrating vignettes from our past into the record of those August days. The memoir, August Farewell, was the result.
After completing it, I decided to share it with a few close friends. They circulated it to others. I kept getting the same feedback from everyone who read it – I was told that our story could be a help to others who have experienced the loss of a loved one as well as for people who would like to learn more about a long-term gay relationship. My friends encouraged me to publish it.
I resisted the idea of publishing it. It felt too personal. Eventually, after a year of cajoling, my friends prevailed and I agreed. However, then I encountered a new dilemma. I could not imaging myself going to commercial publishers trying to convince them that this was something that they should take on. That prospect felt disrespectful to Bill’s memory.
So I decided to go the self-publishing route with iUniverse – a very satisfying experience.
Though I now had the historical record of our life together and of Bill’s dying, my head and my heart were still roiling with unresolved issues. In the three years prior to Bill’s death, four other immediate family members had died. Plus, I was now retired and looking back on a career much of it spent engaged in international issues about which I had many questions.
I decided to continue writing as a way to think through the multitude of issues, personal and professional, that were consuming my head and my heart. I plunged into the waters of fiction to see if through my imagination I could write a story that would speak to my own preoccupations and perhaps have interest to others.
My experience with iUniverse and self-publishing had been so positive, I decided to continue in that stream. After all, the novel Searching for Gilead was my first attempt at fiction writing and I doubted any commercial publisher would have interest.
So this second career as a writer is indeed an accidental, unplanned one. Who knows where it will go. I certainly don’t.