I didn’t even know that they had paid off the mortgage. I mean if Dad had been unwell we might have sat down and had that conversation, but it was all so sudden… It never even crossed my mind. I’ve found winning means more to other people than to me, although I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.
It was my way of showing that I appreciated everything they’d done. I thought about disappearing for a while, but settled on buying a house and some time. I’d finished studying, but still lived in student digs and was going to have to move sooner or later. I found a place, friends moved in and paid me mates’ rates. I also bought a pool table, which felt symbolic – my house would be a cool guy’s house.
It took a few months for the scale of what that meant for me to become apparent. Not only because it takes time for grief and mourning to really take hold, but I also just hadn’t really considered quite how much it meant my brother and I would inherit.
I parted company with my publisher aged 40, after my third book. I published a book of short stories, but it may as well have disappeared off a cliff. From then for five or six years I couldn’t even give away my work. After that, the first thing I bought was a soft-close toilet seat.
I’m amazed by how people’s perception changed. Winning an award didn’t make me a better writer, I guarantee it, but it seems to have done in the eyes of many others. Sure, you can stick your chest out and think you’re a great fellow, but you wouldn’t want to get caught in that pose. As a writer, you can think of a career as a thing of gradual ascent. Yet my first book was very well reviewed and received, and after that things started declining. Critics still enjoyed my work, but experimental twists meant they were getting fewer and fewer readers.
The one in the mobile home made a loud bang when it shut. ‘Yes, we’ll have that. ’ Since then we’ve given some money to the kids.
Something in my gut was telling me to carry on; a voice inside my head whispering, “Nong, you’ve got this. ” Maybe it was a guardian angel, but I decided to risk it. When I made it to the studio I was excited, but didn’t have high expectations. I don’t want to make out that I suffered as a child, but we struggled. We were a single-parent family and Mum worked so hard to provide for me. I didn’t do much the first few months, then I got a job at the local pub part-time, which I enjoyed. I got a nice TV and a second-hand car, and lent money to friends so they could do the same.