This week London Boy film fans are given a totally real and brutally honest insight into Johnny Mack and the man that he is. Johnny talks openly for the first time of his purpose for turning his hand to writing and his continual battle against addiction / alcoholism….
The Questions I’m Often Asked & My Journey Of writing So Far
The Lows & Fighting Demons
Sorry there haven’t been many blogs recently but I’ve been up to my armpits working with our London Boy production team. On top of that there’s been the editing of the script with our director Lee Hutcheon. That on it’s own was truly an inspirational experience!
So all in all it’s been a bit hectic with having little time out for myself let alone the blog.
This week I’m going to try and chat about and hopefully answer the questions I am frequently asked…but then again I’ll probably end up writing about all sorts, so just bear with me guys.
“How and why did you become a writer?”
Not a strange question to ask any author who is in the process of signing your own personal copy of their latest work.
But the truth is it’s not a question I can answer entirely between signing copies of my work at a book launch. However now I am co-writing the script for “London Boy” with Lee Hutcheon I am now being regularly contacted and asked…
“How and why did you become a scriptwriter?”
So I thought I would get a grip on this and answer you guys on how and why I decided to do what I am doing today. First of all, I want it known that at no time prior to 2007 did I have any indication, intention, thought or idea that for the next eight years I’d be writing. Unless of course I got myself nicked and started writing letters home. The easiest way to explain the main question is as follows.
In June 2006 I began my recovery to combat my alcoholism. Part of the process of my recovery program was to write down a brief life story. I was told it would help me unearth things about myself that ultimately made me drink to excess. I’ve since learned that alcoholism is a mental illness that cannot be treated, just by putting the cork back in the bottle. No, far from it, because from my own experience I know there is a lot more to recovery than just staying teetotal. First of all, if I wanted to remain sober, the first thing I had to do was to get honest with my thinking. I heard it said from a guy 30 years sober. “It was never about my drinking, it was always about my thinking.” Those words triggered something within me because my thinking was never entirely honest. Hence, I began writing an honest account of my life, not knowing if what I was doing was going to help me stay sober. Having already tried and failed every known method to remain in sobriety I decided to give it a try. After all I had nothing to lose did I? I was at my rock bottom and so very desperate for the nightmarish life I had been leading for years to come to an end. I want to point out that there are many different levels to addiction/alcoholism. It just depends how far down the scale you’ve gone before seeking help. It is a progressive, powerful, cunning and baffling illness that creeps up on you. It is also the only illness that tells you that you haven’t got it. When you come to realise you have a problem, by and large it’s too late to just stop because you’ve hit rock bottom and it has its grip on you.
It’s a fact that 98% of alcoholics fail to reach 20 years of sobriety. Getting told that when I began my recovery program had an amazing affect on me. I had only been a week without a drink and I was elated. Prior to that I couldn’t imagine going a day without one. Now I was being told only 2% make the 20-year mark, so the odds were not in my favour. When I got sobered up, it wasn’t the case that I thought one morning “Oh I’ll stop and go to a place where I will get support from other alkies.” No, no…far from it, I am one of the few that have had a spiritual experience that took away that nail-biting obsession and craving that only another alcoholic can relate too.
Call it or me what you want, because the experience I felt that early June morning was REAL! Over the years I have taken every drug/drink known to man, yet the buzz I felt that morning was far more superior to any substances I had consumed. It was so powerful that I find it very hard to describe the full affect in detail. If I had to describe what it was like to have a blast on a crack pipe, it would go something like this…”Yeah I felt fucking great, danced all night and everyone around me became my best friends that I gave all my money away.” Or if it had been a meth pipe…”Yeah fucking great, it made the back of my neck numb made me horny as fuck and shrivelled my dick.” What I felt with the experience was nothing other than pure love and believe me if I could bottle it I would.
When it happened I was sitting on the edge of the sofa with only the dog for company. The rest of the family were upstairs asleep, after all it was 4am. I’ve never been a religious geezer, though I’ve always believed in God. Unbeknown to me at that time having that belief became my lifeline to a better life. I would really put a lot of effort into hiding my excessive drinking. At the end of my drinking days I would drink out of the way alone or in the middle of the night. Yet I knew it wasn’t normal to be acting like that, yet I couldn’t stop myself. Previously when trying to stop drinking you’ll probably find me on my hands and knees in an empty Church praying for help. For 15 years usually after a massive bender I’ll sneak into a Church when it was empty and pray for help. Most times I’ll come out of the Church and head for the nearest pub full of self-pity. I put it down to karma, the fact I had a criminal past and had done some awful things that not even God wanted to help me. But God was all I had left to ask for help; doctors, counsellors couldn’t do anything for me, so I turned to my last option… prayer.
My spiritual experience pushed me to floor, then wham I felt it! The room lit up as I felt a presence; the dog flew under the dining table (Pit-bull) and then I felt this amazing sensation of pure love. In the background a soft voice (I couldn’t say if it was male/female) kept repeating ‘It is going to be okay Johnny.’ As soppy as it may sound to some of you, I burst into tears. I am not one for showing my emotions but on this occasion I couldn’t control myself. Tears were running down my cheeks like a leaky tap and in doing so I created a big wet patch on the carpet.
I kept asking for the feeling to remain but it left me after several minutes. Still kneeling I got myself together by wiping away the tears and sat back on the sofa. My first thoughts were…”What the fuck was all that about?” Yet I felt different, unburdened in such a way, that all feelings of anxiety and stress had vanished. I still had a half full bottle right next to me, yet what did I do? I finished it off and went back to bed falling into a deep sleep. A few hours later I was woken by the sound of my wife (Ex now) shouting at the dog for pissing on the carpet. For a moment I had forgot about what had happened only a few hours earlier. My memory quickly returned when I didn’t end up in the toilet for my daily ritual of coughing my lungs up to the point that I would be sick.
Instead I went downstairs to save the dog from getting a boot up the ass by explaining the wet patch to my wife. She couldn’t believe what I was telling her when I explained what had happened. She had heard so many bullshit excuses from me in the past that with this one she thought I had finally lost the plot. I suppose for her it would take a long time to convince her that what I experienced was real. The time that has past since June 2006 I’ve come to call ‘Promoting my wellness period.’ Whenever I share my experience, strength and hope with other sufferers I am always taken back with their reaction on how I got sober. Those that are still struggling with acceptance of their illness are very critical of my story. But to be honest, what others think of me is none of my business. Those that have changed their tune by accepting that they have a problem tell me that I am an inspiration for their recovery because there is still hope for them.
When I began writing my life story, I had to be careful with what I put down on paper. Being too honest could have dire consequences if the law got wind of what I was writing. As I said my life story was never intended for public viewing. It was only to be shared with one other person who was a geezer who I had chosen to be my sponsor. He is a guy I trust, who had led a life that was similar to my own and of course he is a recovering alcoholic. I’m a bit of a perfectionist with most things I undertake, so when I started my life story I got a bit carried away.
When I got to page 200 I had only managed to write the first 28 years of my life. I done another 20 pages before realising that if I continued at this rate, it would take 1000 pages or more to complete. When I showed my sponsor he was shocked, not just with the content but the length of it. But even though I had only managed to get to the age of 28 on paper, there was enough amongst those pages to help me understand what I was about. To be bluntly honest it showed me as a walking character defect. But what strikes me as astonishing was that all my character defects were based on fear. Now I know it were those fears that indirectly led me to drink to excess.
After completing that part of my recovery program my sponsor suggested I burn it for safety reasons. However my daughter had got wind of what I had been doing and asks to read it. She knew of my gangster days but not quite to the extent I went too. She was shocked at some of the stuff her dad had got up to while being active in amongst the criminal fraternity. She then suggested I send it off to a publishing house with the hope that they will publish it. I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing world nor did I know how to submit a manuscript. I thought long and hard about submitting my MS and became aware that there’s a message within it that could help others. So after editing out all the criminating evidence I posted it off to 40 publishing houses. I was so lazy with the layout that I sent it off in the entire wrong format. My thoughts at that time were if it’s to be, then it will be. If it’s not, than at least it has helped me identify things about me that were ruled by ego and fear.
Because of the format, 37 publishing houses wrote back to me to tell me so. Then to add insult to injury I was told that it was unread and ready for the bin. I wasn’t particularly worried about the knock-backs because now when I think on it I had done it for my daughter. It was never my intention to publish my story; I wrote it purely to aid my recovery. There were still three publishers who had not replied so I naturally assumed they had binned my MS.
Within a few days of receiving the last knock back I collected my mail as usual from the box outside. There were three letters inside that I recognised being from publishing houses. My initial thought was, here we go again another knockback and with that I left them on the side unopened. My wife at that time suggested I open them up but because I was in a hurry I told her I’d do it later.
When I eventually returned home it was that late all my family were all tucked up in bed. I ate my oven-warmed dinner and decided to turn in for the night and as I went into the hallway, there on the side were the letters. I thought, I might as well, so I’ll opened the first one…after reading the contents my heart skipped a beat and I let out a few loud yahoo’s! Both my wife and daughter had got up to see what all the racket was about. While reading it I could see their faces change to an expression of elation. We were all chuffed especially my daughter; me, well lets just say I was shocked, shocked that a publisher wanted to publish my story.
I went on to open the other two letters and was gobsmacked that they too wanted to publish my work.
Cut to the chase I checked out all three publishing houses and went with the one that had the best marketing skills.
When ‘Dunpeckham’ was published the reviews from avid readers from all over the world were amazing. It seemed that I had a natural talent at being a good storyteller. So many people said it would make a great movie. Yeah at the time those comments were flattering but to me having a movie production based on my life was nothing more than a dream.
However since then I have been approached by a dozen or more people who called themselves producers etc. I had promise after promise from them telling me that they could get my story on the big screen. All of them accept two were nothing more than time wasters, bullshitters and liars. The last one was the worst of the worst; a washed-up has been with a huge coke habit.
A good pal of mine had introduced me to award winning film director Lee Hutcheon one year after ‘Dunpeckham’ was published. He had read it and thought it would make a great movie or TV drama. Lee pitched it to Sky One TV and low and behold the next thing Lee had a meeting with their production team. They wanted to make a six part crime based TV drama. They loved the concept of Dunpeckham’ and what it represented. They particularly liked the black humour but much more, they loved the raw honesty of the character. Our only problem was the amount of materiel we had. I was only halfway through writing part 2 of my autobiography ‘Landed on the Moon’ But Sky couldn’t wait for that to be finished and to cut a long story short they went with Martina Cole’s ‘The Take’ She went on to do a few series with Sky and earned a fortune…bless her.
But one good thing came out of that which gave me the determination to continue trying to get Dunpeckham’ on to the big screen. Lee explained to me that I should look at the bigger picture. We had come away with the knowledge that professionals’ from the worlds largest media company had considered my work for a TV drama. If I had more materiel at the time, no doubt the deal would have gone through. And finally the Queen of crime fiction Martina Cole nipped me at the post.
When I looked at it from that angle, I believed it would only be a matter of time before someone else would want it.
After that Lee became my mentor especially if I was dealing with people who claimed they could make things happen. I would contact him with a list of questions asking him for advice. He knew I was working my nuts off and at the same time being fucked around by these liars and bullshitters. It was then Lee suggested we both write the script together and since we started we have not looked back.
I have learned so much from Lee because he is a very inspirational geezer who oozes talent. We worked a perfect system to write the screenplay and boy it’s turned out to be the dogs’ bollocks.
Then I was fortunate to have a really good pal of mine Chris Evans who is a wizard with his marketing/promotional abilities. Since Chris come on board he has worked really hard on promoting London Boy. He has managed to spread the word in all the right directions and getting the attention of the right people. Now London Boy is being talked about far and wide. So we owe a lot to Chris and his team and once production starts he’ll be one busy fella.
So from that June morning when I thought life wasn’t worth living, I’ve come a long way. Today my thoughts are that life is worth living and if you stay focussed work hard you can make your dreams come true.
Ta la for now