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Perseverance and Serendipity

The blurb for my novel 'Margot's Men' says it is 'A haunting tale of what may be lost and found . . .' ironically this is true of the novel itself. Here is the convoluted tale of why this is so . . .

I wrote the first draft of Margot's Men (which then had the working title Claudia's Child) back in 1995-1996 when my daughter was a year old. I had an old Macintosh Colour Classic computer (sporting a huge 4MB of RAM) that used the rather unfortunately named floppy disks, which are the heritage items you can see in the photo. For younger readers; they were today's equivalent of a USB and held a copious 2MB of info. And I do mean MB, not GB. The word processing program was ClarisWorks 3, which you have probably never heard of, but was good in its day.

Then, the usual sort of story, I couldn't get the novel published, I went on to write Doctor God the next year, started a PhD, started a business . . . Then in 2000 the government introduced the GST and I was forced to upgrade my old computer to cope with the accounting requirements for my business. I took all my old files into the Uni and explained the situation. The IT staff there obligingly updated everything including what I had done on my PhD, both my novels, my business files etc. They were only just able to manage it and it required several software changes: my old version of ClarisWorks to a more updated version; into a bridging program to convert from Apple to PC; into an old version of Word and then into the current version of Word. They reckoned if I had left it another year it would not have been possible at all. Phew.

Skip forward now to 2003. PhD finally completed, I thought I would dig my old novels out and re-edit them. Doctor God was all there, but for Margot's Men there were two chapters missing! From memory it was something like Chapters 5 and 13. Somehow they had got lost in the long conversion process. I panicked. I checked every copy, DVD, back-up file but in every copy of the book I had, they were missing. And worse - after so many years I couldn't remember what was in them, so rewriting them would be nearly impossible.

In the back of a drawer I still had the original floppy disk you see in the photo - but computers no longer read them - and I wasn't sure if the missing chapters were on it or not. At that time my daughter (who was now eight) and I were doing a karate class on Sunday mornings and there I had become friends with a lovely woman who worked in the Uni library. Somehow I must have mentioned my dilemma and she said she had a friend at the library who still had an old Apple computer and might be able to read the disk.

We all met at the library and he obligingly inserted my old disk, which whirred and clunked encouragingly. Yes! It opened. And Yes! There were the two missing chapters. He was unable to save them in any other format, but he could print them out. So almost in tears with gratitude I left with my precious paper copies and duly retyped the entire chapters in again. Even as I did that I realised how lucky I was, because I couldn't remember any of what I had written.

So now, twenty years after it was first written, and after misadventure and many rewrites, I have finally published my first novel Margot's Men. And my message for you is - despite adversity never give up!

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