George Roberts’ semi-autobiographical work of fiction, From Ten Down to Three, features a teen protagonist who faces a tumour on his brain and is forced to evaluate life early on. The true-to-life humorous tale about overcoming struggle is available at Amazon.
George: Can I ask how your brain tumour impacted on your life? Did you begin to plan for the future in ways that you hadn’t previously?
The brain tumour affected my life in a very positive way. I had been having the headaches for years. I was told my doctors that there was nothing wrong for all those years too. I went through my early life knowing that something wasn’t quite right but put trust in the professionals, I just dealt with the headaches and they became the norm. It wasn’t until I banged my head that things were investigated, by sheer luck and whilst looking for a possible blood clot the tumour was found. This made me feel very lucky. I quickly realised that life was very precious and at times full of chance. I matured very quickly and started to think more about other people. My dad said that he thought that this sort of thing only happens to other people and then he said that we are other people. There was a good understanding, more than we had before about how sensitive life actually is. It is something that I have never forgotten and the feelings that went with it. I realised how tough life is for many people all over the world. It also led me to start asking from very serious questions about life, is fate real, why do children have to go through this kind of thing?
Right. How people process their struggles in light of the struggles of others.
I have a twin brother, Chris. He found the whole time when I was poorly very tough. He went for a long time not being able to talk to me whilst I was in hospital. All this is explained in the book. There is a very tender moment and an exchange between us. He could not come to terms with what was going on.
And is there a real Collette, the sister in the story? Tell me a little about her. Your main character pranks her at one point early on, and he gets in trouble. Do you have a sister too?
Collette is my actual sister, that’s her real name. Still have a great relationship. We are a very close family, always have been and always will be. We got through everything because we are so close and caring to each other.
And the love interest?
Jennie is my wife, her name is different in real life, I dedicated the book to her. She is the best person I know, honestly, she is amazing. We have been through some really hard times, no money, had children very young and everything that goes with that. We stuck with it and here we are today. Life is good but I also know how quickly things can change.
How autobiographical is the story?
A lot of the story is true. The tumour, obviously and the feelings and questions that went along with it. There are elements that I have added, this is to examine the possibility of fate, I leave the reader to decide for themselves. There are parts that I found emotional to write because they were so true, each word led to a memory that I’d thought I had forgotten.
Your bio suggests you started a family early – was part of this a fear of mortality, and living life to the fullest?
Starting a family young? This, I don’t think was because I was thinking ahead and living life to the fullest. I have thought many times however that this could have actually been the case. I don’t know what the future holds, nobody does. Is this fate again stepping in? Maybe I had children young for a reason? I have now been married for 22 years and have a 22 year old and a 21 year old. Life, for me has taught me so much, this is something that I have been able to pass on to my children. I consider myself extremely lucky, for many, many reasons.
How has your experience with autism affected your own perspectives on life?
Again, working with people who have autism came to me by accident. I lost a business, a shop, due to bad floods which led to my friend asking if I wanted to help her out in the care industry. Life really throws up some things that you never thought of. Working with adults with autism is very challenging, again though you can see a different side to life that many other people don’t. It has made me more understanding and has taught me that everything is not just black and white. The autism spectrum is so large and the smallest thing can also be the biggest thing. I do see the work that we do as very positive and I really enjoy what I do. Like I said, it’s hard work and challenging but amazing and rewarding.
And can I ask you about some of these guys, the characters in the novel who get everything brand new? Are you highlighting class there at all, spoilt kids? Were there kids better off than your main characters? If you were an American, would these guys be your high school jock bullies, the prom kings?
These guys would never have been prom kings or bullies, I don’t think. They were just who they were. Some people are very selfish at times, this was something that myself and Chris didn’t understand as we had been taught differently.
My parents believed that if you bought for one then you bought for all three, that would also be for the same amount. Kevin and his brother had to share too, for example. I don’t know what their money situation was, could have been better than ours but we weren’t into material things. We understood the value of money.
We never did without anything. We had the best upbringing that we could have asked for.
Why is Pigeon Eyes in the novel [a peer of the main character who has an accident early on, clowning around]? Have you considered asking that question? Is he there to show that you shouldn’t take silly risks? That Chris and James don’t take these risks and yet they are afflicted by near-tragedy?
Wow, in a word yes. To highlight how quickly things can happen, how a silly decision can have a big impact and then how an accident can save you. You’re the first person to pick up on that.
It actually seems quite rounded and the main characters seem to be able to dish out as much as take the flak from the other boys. Can we talk about that dynamic too?
The characters in the book come and go. I felt that this was like life. How many people, if you think back have you met and you have liked them, then they go out of your life, things move on. Like school really, you have good friends at school and then you leave, you may never see them again. Life treats us to little gifts like this but things don’t always stay the same.