I have always been fascinated by people who run out on their lives. Especially when it’s done as a way to rediscover themselves. Mostly it occurs at a point of major conflict in their lives. Real life examples are Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love who ran away after her painful divorce, needing to find herself again. Another example is Rina Huber and her husband who decided to quit their jobs and sail the Mediterranean after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 60 as a way to make their last years together more precious.
I started writing what would later become An Invincible Summer seven years ago when my mother was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. It was one of the hardest times in my life. My mother is one of the most important people in my life and the idea of living without her was excruciating. I battled depression and crippling anxiety as a result. Later my anxiety morphed into what I was doing with my own life. Till then I’d been happily going with the flow but this was a wake-up call, a cliché I suppose, but one that kept me up every night with full blown panic attacks.
When my mother got better after a very long road to recovery I began thinking of running away. Not as a means to abandon your life, but to embrace a new one. I left my well paying job, complete with resident pyscho boss similar to Ria’s from An Invincible Summer where she quits on the spot. I took a 60% pay reduction to work as a journalist for a local newspaper. It was a leap of faith, but one I’ve never regretted.
During my depression one of the few things that made me feel better was writing. I started writing a book about a woman who instead of going to work one day, decides to hop on a plane instead. Of course, the first rendition was awful. Truly. I set it in Mauritius. Yes, Mauritius. Which is probably why I abandoned the book for seven years. As it didn’t really work. Then last year I picked it up again. The idea really. I was inspired by my best friend who encouraged me to relook at my old story as the premise was still there. At some point the idea really took form when I came across the legend of Ariadne – the Cretan princess who saves Theseus from the Minotaur only to be abandoned by him in a cave and how with the help of Dionysus (the god of madness and wine) she starts over.
So I deleted 24,500 words of the 25,000 word novel I had and rewrote it as An Invincible Summer. It gets its name from the Albert Camus quote :
“In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.”
It’s the story of having the courage to start again after suffering unimaginable grief, trusting in the surprising beauty of life and having the will to rediscover yourself along the way.
After losing her fiance, Ria’s life has been at a standstill. So nobody is more surprised than her when she makes the snap decision to run away to the Greek island of Crete, armed only with her passport. It turns out to be a brilliant idea. She soon starts working for eccentric novelist Caroline, and meets handsome vineyard owner Tom. And who couldn’t be charmed by the picture perfect island of Crete, complete with sea-front tavernas and sun-drenched olive groves?
But soon there is trouble in paradise. As Ria gets to know Tom better, she unwittingly uncovers a tangled web of secrets, and a truth that someone will do anything to keep hidden. What’s more Ria carries her own secret, her own sadness about her past love, and as she and Tom grow closer will this stop her from grabbing her own chance at happiness with both hands?
Sometimes running away is how you find yourself …