Garfield Ellis: On Writing The Angels’ Share
To celebrate the release of The Angels’ Share — the latest from acclaimed author Garfield Ellis — we’re pleased to feature a statement from the author on how his fascination with regret formed the core of his novel.
Some years ago, a friend in his late sixties had a major surgery and for a while did not expect to live through it. After his recovery I asked him what regrets he felt while he was laying there on what he thought would be his deathbed. Without a pause he answered, “Airs.” He wished, he said, he could have gone back over his life as a diplomat, an aristocrat, and a lawyer and undo every moment he had acted superior or aloof. And knowing him—the person he was and the life he lived—I was immediately struck by the astonishing futility of regret.
I became fascinated with the notion of regret and wished to explore its nature. I wanted to understand the desire to return to “the seed of the hour” or the fork in the road and try to make things right as we near our end. Thus I embarked on the writing of The Angels’ Share.
But the story could not be just about the pursuance of futility or the exploration of unfulfilled dreams. It also had to be about the possibility of recognizing those critical life-changing moments, and in recognizing those moments, having the courage to make the decisions that would perhaps minimize the deathbed regrets. But the power of the novel is that despite my intentions it evolved on its own in order to remind me that we can never cover all the bases—and that is okay.
What surprised me most about the book is how it turned the tables on me and became my own exploration of my own regrets and an unconscious search for those intimate moments I wish I had shared with my father. I grew up yearning for my father and did not meet him till I was thirty years old. By then it was too late to experience those childhood fantasizes. I was now a man and had moved beyond them. But they were unexplored and unresolved and this novel unexpectedly became my own journey to the resolution of some of the misgivings I had about the absence of my father.
At its core The Angels’ Share is a story about a search for redemption and the discovery that redemptive peace comes with acceptance and forgiveness.
GARFIELD ELLIS grew up in Jamaica. He studied marine engineering, management, and public relations in Jamaica and completed his MFA at the University of Miami, as a James Michener Fellow. He is the author of five published books: Flaming Hearts, Wake Rasta, Such As I Have, For Nothing at All, and Till I’m Laid to Rest. His work has appeared in several international journals, including Callaloo, Calabash, the Caribbean Writer, Obsidian III, Anthurium, and Small Axe. Ellis has won the Una Marson Prize for Adult Literature for his collection Flaming Hearts (1997), and later for Till I’m Laid To Rest (2000). He also won the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for Short Fiction in 2000 and 2005, and the 1990 Heinemann/Lifestyle Short Story Competition. The Angels’ Share is his latest novel.
Posted: Jan 6, 2016