Book interview with Jonathan Fryer, author of “Eccles Cakes”


ECCLES CAKES: An Odd Tale of Survival.

At the age of 18 months, Jonathan Fryer was adopted into a prosperous business family in Greater Manchester, but he felt like a fish out of water there. When his adoptive father started interfering with him sexually, his only dream was to get away as far as possible. The seeds were thus sown for him to take on the life of a foreign correspondent, beginning with his leaving home at the age of 18 to cover the Vietnam War.


What inspired you to write your book?

My memoir was conceived during a period of therapy in my early 60s, when I was being treated for acute PTSD rooted in childhood sex abuse. Part of the therapy was to write down retrieved memories and feelings and at one point the psychotherapist said, “You’re a writer! You should turn this into a book!”

How long did it take you to write your book?

I thought about the opening paragraph for several months before starting the actual writing, which took about a year-and-a-half.

What is the one thing that you would love someone to take away after reading your book?

That it is possible to survive childhood distress and self-loathing and to go out cheerfully into the world to discover wonderful places and people.

Describe your book in three words.

Triumph over adversity.

What was one experience in life where you realised books had the power to make meaningful change, on either you or the world?

35 years ago, when I was on a journalistic assignment to Angola during the civil war there I was detained for a week in the transit lounge of Luanda airport. There I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace, discovering how the power of words can lift one out of one’s current predicament and transport one to another time and place.

When you write, who do you envision you’re writing to?

My 14 earlier books – all published by mainstream publishers, half of them on both sides of the Atlantic, and with some
translated into French, German, Dutch, Romanian, Arabic and Hebrew – were all targeted at the intelligent “general reader”: a person with a curiosity about the world who enjoys history and biography, and probably belongs to a public library. But Eccles Cakes (which was self-published, on the recommendation of my literary agent) was different, as it is so personal, and therefore more aimed at people who know me or know about me from my books or broadcasting or politics. It’s in two distinct halves, the first covering the traumatic period as a child in Eccles, the second about escaping that environment and going off at aged 18 to be a cub reporter in the Vietnam War.

What did you enjoy most- and least- about the process of creating your book?

The second half of the book is based mainly on diaries that I kept religiously from the age of 17. I hadn’t opened them for half a century and it was fascinating (and sometimes cringe-making) what my thoughts were at that stage in my life. Maybe not surprisingly, there were times during the writing of the first part that I cried for the child that I had been.

What common traps do you think first-time writers fall into, and how can new writers avoid them?

Too many adjectives. Less is often more.

What about favourite films?

I love cinema, even more than theatre, and during the seven years I lived in Belgium I was a film critic for a weekly magazine, which meant going to four press screenings a week. I therefore had to watch a lot of indifferent movies, but also many greats. But I guess the one film I can see again and again without tiring of it is Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot.

Link to buy Jonathan Fryer’s book in Amazon: “Eccles Cakes“.

Link to Jonathan Fryer’s facebook page: “Jonathan Fryer facebook page





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