The Mango Orchard

Guest Post: The Ultimate Writing Deadline – Robin Bayley

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I’m pleased to welcome Robin Bayley today. Robin is the author of The Mango Orchard and is here to share a very emotive guest post.

The Ultimate Writing Deadline – Robin Bayley

I have always the Douglas Adams quote: “I love deadlines; I love the sound they make as they go whooshing by!” I can’t truthfully claim to be quite so cavalier about them, although admittedly, this article was due a couple of hours ago. But when I was working on The Mango Orchard, I had a very good reason to write as quickly as possible: one of the main characters in the book was very keen to see it finished, and she was ninety eight years old when I began.

The book was inspired by the fabulous stories my grandmother told me when I was a boy. She told me about her father’s adventures in the Americas, about wild jungle journeys, brushes with bandits, hidden bags of silver in a mango orchard and a daring escape from the Mexican Revolution. About twenty years after she had first told me these stories, she showed me her father’s old leather suitcase. As soon as she opened it and I saw my great grandfather’s letters, photos and 1893 Baedeker guidebook, I decided to give up my career, sell my home and retrace his footsteps in search of the bags of silver he had hidden in a mango orchard somewhere in Mexico.

My own journey included encounters with witches (and falling in love with one), drug smugglers, ex-Nazi diamond dealers, bandits and guerrilla fighters, before leading me to the small village in western Mexico where my English forebear had lived. There, I found no silver, but discovered that he had left a secret family behind, now numbering over three hundred. I also discovered that not only had he narrowly escaped from the Mexican Revolution with his life, but that he had also played a part in starting it.

While no bags of silver would have given me anything near the richness of the story I unearthed, the responsibility of my discovery weighed heavily on me. I was no longer an adventurer on a quest; I was the custodian of what I found. It was no longer my story, but the story of hundreds of people, and what I wrote affected how they would be judged by the outside world.

Because it was such a huge story – spanning over a hundred years, two continents and five generations, the most important decision I had to make was how to write the book. Should I write it as fiction or non-fiction? From my great grandfather’s point of view or my own? I decided to write it as non-fiction and took inspiration from one of her phrases: “There are three versions of every story, your version, my version and the truth.” This empowered me to tell the story as I saw it. It was my truth, and I believe that’s all any writer can be asked to reflect.

She read the completed manuscript twice – and the bits with her in, about twenty times. She died just short of her 103rd birthday, just after I had visited her to tell her I had got the publishing deal and that I would dedicate the book to her.

About The Mango Orchard (2012)
The Mango OrchardAs a child, Robin Bayley was enchanted by his grandmother’s stories of Mexican adventures—of bandits, wild jungle journeys, hidden bags of silver, and a narrow escape from the bloody Mexican Revolution. But Robin sensed there was more to these stories than anyone knew, and so he set out to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather. Undaunted by the passage of time and a paucity of information, Robin seeks out the places where his great-grandfather Arthur “Arturo” Greenhalgh traveled and lived, determined to uncover his legacy. Along the road Robin encounters witches, drug dealers, a gun-toting Tasmanian Devil, and an ex-Nazi diamond trader. He is threatened with deportation, offered the protection of Colombian guerrilla fighters, and comforted by the blessings of los santos. He falls in love with a beautiful Guatemalan girl with mystical powers and almost gives up his quest, until a sense of destiny drives him on to western Mexico and the discovery of much, much more than he had bargained for.

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About Robin Bayley
Robin Bayley had a promising career in children’s television when, much to the surprise of his friends and family, he decided to give up his job, sell his apartment and follow his muse. As well as uncovering the story told in The Mango Orchard, he has written many articles and was once cast as a drug smuggler in a Bollywood movie.

He is currently working on a screenplay he has been commissioned to write for a feature film.

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Author: Donna Brown Donna is a longtime book lover and sometime book reviewer and has devoured books from an early age. She writes short (or long) stories as and when inspiration hits and is married to fantasy author David M. Brown (Fezariu's Epiphany, A World Apart). She was also co-contributor to David's book, Man vs Cat, a humorous look at life with six rambunctious rescue cats. Donna has lived in many different areas of the UK over the last 30-something years but has remained in Yorkshire for the past decade. She ardently disputes the misnomer that 'It's grim up north'.

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