Paul Douglas Lovell
Writing a memoir is not an easy task to undertake, because unlike a fictional story, achieving a clear perspective of your life must be quite difficult, especially with a unique biography such as yours. How do you find a balanced way to see your life? Is that an important goal for you in your writing?
I approached my biography in a pragmatic way. I knew which sections of my life story I wanted to reveal and I also decided that it had to be 100% truthful and totally realistic.
I was actually aiming for ordinary. That is ordinary to people like myself from harsh backgrounds, people who have tasted dirt, so to speak. I had a message I wanted to deliver and it was important to use the correct tone.
I was once the underdog’s mangy mutt. A scruffy, uneducated, stoned youth with no prospects and plenty of baggage.
I want my story to encourage hope in the similarly unqualified, “moderately” lazy fantasists out there. Those victims of circumstance that cling to the dream of locating a silver lining with no proof it even exist. I’m hoping my tale will help them keep the faith.
Perhaps, for some, I can even dispel the notion that it’s destination scrapyard, because someone has marked them, “damaged goods”.
I never considered becoming a street prostitute to be immoral, although I admit it is a massive cliché for victims of child abuse. I viewed it as a viable option to escape an unfair poverty trap.
To silence critics who spout “you could have…” I say “When a child goes to school hungry and tired or with mental anguish, education is the last thing on their mind.”
That said I was a resilient child, who for the most part was happy. My philosophy is, it would have been even more tragic if it happened to someone else.
Therefore once I’d divulged enough details from my past for the reader to build a genuine profile. I dispensed with courting sympathy for the sake of it. The general tone of Paulyanna is up-beat and at times, a little nonchalant.
I truly believe it was good karma and blind optimism that helped steer my life and ultimately, change my circumstances for the better. Perhaps that is all we need.
Authenticity and truthfulness was of paramount importance. I was aiming for just one person to read it and think “Yeah, it is, it’s just like that.”
I wanted to represent my reality. Not some polished, ultra successful, good-looking commercial. Nor, a desperate, view from the gutter.
So in ways of balancing, I stick to the truth and give facts and emotions without embellishments. No added glamour and no added grit viewed –as it was at the time – through the rose-tinted lenses of the main character Paulyanna.
I made sure to substitute these rose specs for crystal glasses whilst writing. I actually find it easy to detached myself and view the past me, as another person. I was able to recall the changing of my attitude at various junctures in my life. These subtle developments I feed in throughout the story.
I have included the ups and downs from a prospective that refuses to dwell on the bad. I’m not promoting drug taking or prostitution but I won’t apologise for living a life that some societies deem unacceptable, in fact, I’m proud that the old me had the nous to succeed. When players are cheating only a fool sticks to their rules.
I’m simply a storyteller… I found a happy ending to my story which I reckoned is worth telling.
This memoir starts in your childhood, and it conveys such an authentic tone of a young boy growing up motherless. Aided by ‘obstinate optimism and flimsy faith,’ your character does his best not to flounder. Tell us a little bit about these reflections about the early period in your life.
I view my childhood with nostalgia. It is much easier to do from a distance. My childhood was impoverished but adventurous. Besides poverty there was only one other issue that could have defeated me. I pretended to myself, that as I was too young to fully remember, that perhaps it didn’t actually occur.
Being poor seemed to hurt a lot more. I grew up envious of everyone. We were the poorest family, in a working-class street.
Even charitable hand-outs seemed to pass me by. A bag of old clothes left on our doorstep bought excitement to the whole family but I knew what to expect or not as the case was. Items were either way too big and went to my three brothers or a little too girlie and went to my sister. Hand-me-downs rarely made it through the entire family.
Still, it wasn’t all bad, we had freedom and more importantly I had optimism and a plan.
Paulyanna: International Rent-boy is an honest and frank portrayal of a working-class male prostitute’s life. It is a peek into what really goes on behind the glassy-eyed smile of a male street worker. Tell us about the struggles of your protagonist, carrying his past possessions and future dreams.
My biggest struggle when I entered the middle-class world of central London was preconceptions and class snobbery. I arrived believing that there was an unwritten law that people like me, should only be employed in potions of servitude. I grew up in the reign of that Thatcher woman.
A working-class accent often provoked suspicion in my motives and doubt in my abilities. Prejudged, I constantly fought to endear myself whenever I encountered new people. Parents always viewed me with mistrust.
If I spoke to strangers there followed the assumption I was after something. Want must have been heavily ingrained upon my face. I eventually learned to incorporate this to my benefit, when hanging on the street looking for business. I was equally to blame, the chip on my shoulder also categorised and labelled.
So it took me a while to realise that street credibility was a trade-off for underachievers and a poor substitute for education. A class con that ensures employment for the kids that failed public school, perhaps.
Non-conformity was my curse, one that I changed into a blessing.
I read the opening chapters of your book. Your writing is exquisitely detailed and it flows with a beautiful literary tone. You must have compensated for the gaps in education by reading a lot. Tell us about your reading, and about your writing process.
This is where I turn red-faced, I really haven’t read more that about 30 books in my entire life. The first book I read cover-to-cover and understood it was Roots, Alex Hayley I was about 22 at the time. I had a problem with blurring lines and remembering what I’d just read. So many times I would read the same line twice. My mentor encouraged me to read more and to attend a writing for beginners course.
I learn how to converse by meeting many different people. I also enjoy the company of hyper intelligent people. I am a sponge with the gift of the gab, should of been a market trader. Cabbages not stocks.
My writing voice is still in development, emotionally stunted people need practice to hone their skills. I think I am almost there, neither too much nor to little. I have learned much by reading Uvi’s work.
(Please excuse any grammatical errors or typo’s, unlike my novel this has not been professionally edited.)
Conversation had turned into one of self-pity on my new companion’s part. Nobody liked him, people only wanted him for his money. I assured him, not everyone. I didn’t care about his money. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered him. I was going with the flow. I made no mention of sex, or money. So I was surprised when I found myself heading out towards Shepard’s Bush with him in a taxi. I foolishly felt obliged to recompense him for the meal but I honestly don’t know how he had talked me into it. I suspect it wasn’t too difficult. He had a room at the Hilton on Holland Park.
I did what I did, which from what I remember wasn’t that much. There was a limit to what I was prepared to do. A clear line of distinction had already been drawn, due to my fear of AIDS. I had only ever granted full sexual access to Russell. I would never willingly surrender to such a violation by a complete stranger. It must have been really boring because once sated he crashed out, snoring on the bed. I remember feeling disgusted as I gazed upon the sleeping man. He did not take any safety precautions. If I had wanted, I could have taken his wallet. Full of regret I got dressed and left the hotel.
Outside, the pain of my guilt was excruciating. I began to gasp uncontrollably and tears streamed down my face as I was struck by the sudden reality and possible implications of such a betrayal. I could never undo what I had done. An indelible scar had been scored right through the middle of my picture postcard existence. I loathed myself, I was beneath contempt. I just wanted to drop to my knees and plead for redemption. I can honestly say that if I’d stumbled into the road and been hit by a truck, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Penniless and dejected, I headed along the Bayswater Road towards the West End. Normally so familiar, it was a very long and lonely path. Now it was dark and alien. To walk through Marble Arch and bypass the Carpenters Arms to spend a second night waiting around Piccadilly Circus would have been too much.
It is all a bit of a blur. Somehow I managed to pluck up the courage to go back home to the pub. I didn’t slip in the back door, I walked in the main entrance and through the bar. It was Friday evening and the drag show was in full swing. I can’t remember what remark the artiste made. Unless she was halfway through a song there most definitely would have been one – landlords and bar staff are always considered a fair target when it comes to drag artist banter. It was probably some reference to chickens, which was a patronizing term of endearment directed towards young gay lads. Something like: “Oh, she does love her chicken, that Russell. She only got caught cruising round the KFC.”
I went straight up to my room, and turned on my stereo to play whatever compact disc was in. I lay on my bed with my back to the door and wept. Russell didn’t come to my room so I tried to justify my actions by placing all the blame on him. He started the argument. He forced me to run off. He didn’t even come to find me. The mattress gradually compressed behind me. I felt a wave of relief and comfort wash over me. I turned to Russell but there was nobody there. Spooky.
After I had revised my edition of accounts, I compartmentalized the whole episode and shut it away with all the things that never happened. I imagine my prayers that night contained an extra dollop of please and perhaps a mention of forgiveness too. The next day things seemed to click right back into place. Any explanation as to my whereabouts would have trailed off after the words, “I spent the day in Brief Encounter…”
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