Strange times and Silver Linings

Next Thursday, my eighth novel, SEARCHING FOR A SILVER LINING is published. It’s the book I am most proud of, not least because I worked so hard to make it a truly memorable book. It is also personally special to me because of the happy hours I spent talking to my Dad about his memories of being a teenager in the 1950s while I was writing it. But I never thought during the many months spent writing my book that it would be published without Dad seeing it.
But that’s what is happening. A week ago today, I lost my lovely Dad.

Still, as I write that sentence, I can’t quite believe it. Life without him is going on – because life does – but the world is a little dimmer and quieter without his presence and infectious sense of humour. The bottom line is that I write what I write because I inherited Dad’s love of comedy and his natural storytelling skill. My earliest memories are of Dad making me laugh. He would make my toys move and talk with funny voices, and tell me stories that made me giggle. He made books come alive for me and my sister and often recited favourite tales verbatim on our walks. So much of what I now do for a living can be traced back to those special times.
When he died, I didn’t want to think about my writing, my stories. They suddenly seemed trivial. All I could think of were his stories – the ones he’d tell over and over again, the ones we had now lost. How do you carry on promoting a new book when life floors you like this?

I’m not sure I know the answer.

But here’s what I do know. My amazing, talented, hilarious Dad had one solution whenever life chucked a spanner in his path: create something to redress the balance. When he was unexpectedly made redundant at the age of 56, Dad sought something creative in response: he joined a TV and Film Extras agency. 

Over the years he had a ball, acting alongside famous people from Scarlett Johansson, Johnny Depp and Michael Sheen, to Catherine Tate, Patrick Stewart and Philip Glenister. And from each new job came new stories – hilarious, stitch-inducing tales of the crazy things he was asked to do. Such as posing with a bolshy duck in The Village, or running up a hill with a Zimmer frame in Hustle. Or the time while filming The Libertine when he asked Johnny Depp what his previous acting job was (Dad’s had been Emmerdale, of which he was mighty proud) to be told ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, and Dad replied, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that. Were you in it?’

Dad understood that, when something bad happens, creating something new and hopeful in its place is the best response.

I can’t bring my Dad back. I wish I could – I would swap every printed copy of my books from here to eternity for one more day with him. But what I do have is the book he was so involved in the writing of. So many of Dad’s memories are woven into the story – in Reenie’s tales of her band The Silver Five’s exploits and in Grandpa Joe’s diary entries that Mattie Bell discovers as she embarks on a road trip like no other. Even the songs that form the chapter headings in Searching for a Silver Lining are my Dad’s favourites from the 1950s. It’s as if the things I loved most about being Brian Harvey Dickinson’s daughter have been infused into the story.

Dad was SO proud of my writing. Every week he would call me with shelf updates from my local Waterstones and WHSmith stores – the booksellers knew he was my Dad and would show him the latest sales figures for my books. He would frequently rearrange shelves so that my books were more visible – several times I was congratulated for being a Richard and Judy pick because a certain sparkly-eyed septuagenarian had been working his magic on the shelves… I know he was proud of this book and loved chatting with me about it.

Those are the things I’m hanging on to as I prepare to do all the book promotion in the coming weeks. So if you see me on Twitter and FB and appearing on lovely book bloggers’ sites talking about my book, please know I’m doing it hoping my lovely Dad is looking on approvingly from the major stage (with the enormous audience) he’s just been called to. And thank you for all your love and support – it’s helping me so much to carry on doing what Dad was so proud of.

17 responses to “Strange times and Silver Linings

  1. So, so sorry for your loss. I recently lost my dad too. I cannot wait to read this book. Lots of love to you and your family x

  2. Such an emotive blog post Miranda, I just want to reach in and give you a hug. It is lovely that a piece of your dad will reach everyone when they read this book and you know that the book blogger community as well as your much loved and supportive fans will help in every way to promote this book for you.
    Sending you lots and lots of love hugs and positive vibes


  3. You really are amazing and lovely and a fab gifted writer.
    Love from a fellow Stourbridge lass Sadie

  4. This is a beautiful tribute to your dad, Miranda. I know how proud he was of you. I remember him taking that picture of us three years ago at your book launch. And I know he will be there in spirit next Thursday when you launch Silver Linings. This is a tough time, but you are surrounded by people who love you and want the very best that life can offer you and your family. Sending all my love Cathy xxx

  5. Moving post Miranda, I know that you dad will be looking down on you with the biggest smile of pride on his face. I’ll be shouting from the rooftops to promote your book for you next week.

    Take care of yourself and your lovely family.

    Sharon xxx

  6. Darling Miranda. This must have been so hard for you to write. Losing parents is such a devastating thing to happen. Your dad will be so proud of you, and your beautiful family as you enter a new stage of your life. I’m so sorry you are having to experience this. Nothing anyone can say or do can make a difference to how you feel but just know that your friends and readers are thinking of you. And watching The Nativity films this Christmas will mean more to Oliver and I this year! Looking forward to seeing you at your events and reading this book which means so very much to you. Lots of love and hugs from Ollie and I, Kim xxxxx

  7. He’ll be watching and immensely proud of you.
    I and countless others will know him through your writing. Your family tales will spread and be loved by a vast audience. We laugh with you and grieve with you too xx

  8. Rosemary Umbers

    I was so sorry to read of your news, Miranda. It must be a very sad time for you all. However as you say you have so many wonderful memories to treasure and how he has been both an inspiration and a support from your childhood. Every blessing and take courage from your faith and his love as you promote your new book. Love Rosemary xxx

  9. That is lovely, Miranda, a wonderful tribute to your special father. I remember being told the Jonny Depp story in the catering bus on a shoot at Coventry and Brian and the Duck are the stuff of SA legend. I hope your book does well and I know that ‘a certain sparkly-eyed septuagenarian’ will be keeping an eye on it.
    Blessings to you all.
    Alan Faulkner.

  10. Sorry for your loss. Your Dad would of been proud and was aware of the books. It will mean more to your readers too. He sounded a wonderful man with a great sense of humour. The memories will live on

  11. This is so moving, darling Miranda, but a wonderful tribute to him. What he did lives on in you, and your gorgeous girl, and your books. Lots of love xxx

  12. (And also Richard is now searching his episodes of Hustle to find your dad’s Zimmer cameo…)

    • Aw! It’s the episode where they are trying to pass off a stately home as theirs to sell to a crooked businessman. They herd all the visitors out and my Dad is dashing up the hill with his Zimmer! He’s also in the one where there are flashbacks to a Victorian Wild West Saloon and he’s one of the gamblers at a poker table xx

  13. Such a beautiful tribute, Miranda. Your dad was clearly so proud of you. Hooray for parents who shamelessly rearrange their children’s books on bookshop shelves! xxx

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