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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Tom Vaughan talks about his new book, Hope… And The Hedgehog, and what inspired him to write it.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Tom Vaughan about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the creative writing process that went into his new book, Hope… And The Hedgehog.

Tell me a bit about who you are?

After a career spanning almost five decades in activities ranging from nightclubs to property development I could accurately be described as a self-made man. A mostly successful entrepreneur who, disliking the inference of the word entrepreneur, prefers to call himself a ‘vigorous muddler’. The vigorousness of the muddling making the difference between success and failure!

Starting from the back of an old van in 1966, my brother and I built Juliana’s Discotheques, into what was then the largest entertainment group of its type in the world; with offices in London, New York, Singapore, Sydney and Hong Kong, finally taking it public on the main London Stock Exchange in 1986 before selling out to Wembley Plc for £30m five years on.

Tom Vaughan, Hope... And The Hedgehog, The Table Read
Tom Vaughan

In later life I turned my hand to writing and now divide my time between Herefordshire and New Hampshire in the US. I have so far written and published three books and am currently working on another novel.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

Thirty-seven years ago. After the extraordinary adventure that was Juliana’s (later becoming Juliana’s Holdings Plc) I knew there was a story to be told in my first book, a memoir called No Ordinary Experience – the Juliana’s story. Creating Juliana’s was a rollercoaster ride.

Although the company was ultimately a success – at its height employing over 500 people – being just barely into our twenties, my brother and I had to muddle through and learn the art of business as we went along. Consequently, we found ourselves facing a few financial scrapes in the early years. This, coupled with years of late nights and parties around the world, meant life was never dull!

When did you take a step to start writing?

I think it was 1985 – about a year before our successful public offering. I wanted to capture everything that had happened with Juliana’s over the previous 16 years before memories faded.

And it was a busy time. Some of the legal papers relating to the flotation had to be signed offshore, involving a number flights up and down to Guernsey in a small chartered plane, so it was a bit of a juggling act finding the time to write the book while still having a hands on role in the running of the company.

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How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

It took about eighteen months. Although writing the book was quite straightforward as, what was essentially a corporate biography, provides its own roadmap. The hard part was in editing down so much material.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Hope…And The Hedgehog is my third book. It took approximately seven years – although I had been curious about our human existence and how planet earth came to support life for a lot longer. Of course, I am not the first to wonder about such a topic – my book rounds up the theories and musings from some of history’s most famous scientists and philosophers.

It aims to unpick life’s biggest questions: how did life begin, how does it end, and what happens to us after we die? I had a gradual realisation that to most people, death is a taboo subject – what may or may not happen afterwards just isn’t thought about, let alone talked about, and I thought there may be a way of tackling this subject in an accessible and ultimately hopeful way.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Hope… And The Hedgehog?

I really wanted to underscore the message that the power of faith – as opposed to religion – can transform people’s lives; how, by choosing to open your mind to the fact that there could be some kind of higher being, even an afterlife, can bring more meaning and fulfilment to your life.

Choosing whether to have some sort of belief in the possibility of meaningful intelligent design, as opposed to a meaningless random cosmic accident, is a big subject that leads on to this inescapable binary choice that affects us all – past, present and future – without exception.

Hope... And The Hedgehog, The Table Read
Hope… And The Hedgehog

In the end it is a subject most people would prefer not to think about, despite it certainly being the single most important decision any of us will ever make – bar none. (Yes, including you, the reader of these words!)


What were your biggest challenges with writing Hope… And The Hedgehog?

There are three that spring to mind:

1. Trying to simplify and make such a huge and complex subject clear and accessible to all – regardless of educational level or background. Distilling the thoughts of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Professor Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, to illustrate the discourse, was also quite a challenge.

2. Separating faith from religion without dissing or dismissing either. In the book I have deliberately sidestepped this complex and potentially controversial subject. It seems to me that, as a starting point at least, you can choose to have faith, or just be spiritually minded, without necessarily adopting the principles of any religion.

3. Ensuring the ultimate ‘message’ of the book was one of hope rather than despair. That’s why I chose the title ‘Hope…and the Hedgehog’ – hope is one of the principal drivers we resort to as human beings when confronted with an insoluble challenge. The question of how we came into existence is the prickly issue that is the essential bedfellow of doubt.

What was your research process for Hope… And The Hedgehog?

My mission was to undertake extensive reading of others, both contemporary and historical – from diverse backgrounds, embracing different persuasions and cultures, who have been brave enough to grapple with this issue. I made sure I read from some of history’s most influential thinkers, ranging from eminent scientists to philosophers – all of whom are far more intelligent and well informed than me.

Standouts in my reading would be the philosophical novels by Paulo Coelho and, more recently, the seminal book by Bear Grylls entitled Soul Fuel.

How did you plan the structure of Hope… And The Hedgehog?

I didn’t. My editor did that. I find it better to work with someone from the outset who can help me order my thoughts.

Tom Vaughan, Juliana's, The Table Read
Tom Vaughan

At the time of writing No Ordinary Experience – the Juliana’s story, I was lucky enough to have been introduced to Clive Dickinson who, aside from having become a good friend, has subsequently done a superb job of editing all three of my books.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Hope… And The Hedgehog need?

A reasonably significant amount. I tend to leave Clive to undertake the editing of the finished manuscript rather than working on it chapter by chapter.

I’m completely undisciplined in my writing, setting myself no daily targets or minimum number of words on any given day. I simply write when I can.

I always make copious notes on scraps of paper, Post-Its and verbally onto a small pocket dictating gadget I usually carry in my back pocket.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Avoid procrastination at all costs. Just sit down and write! It is very surprising how, when being disciplined enough to do this, the writing will start to flow.

It was during the depressing and demoralising process of being rejected by literary agents and publishing houses I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a top literary agent who agreed to give me thirty minutes in her busy schedule. Her advice was to stop wasting my time looking for either an agent or publisher.

She explained that the whole publishing world was in turmoil and running scared (due in large part to the arrival of Amazon and the increasing ease of self-publishing) and were not prepared to take any risks on unknown authors – especially those of a certain age.

They only wanted surefire successes with established authors, she said, or at least those young enough to perhaps have many more books in them! She went on to suggest the self-publishing route and advised that I take it.

I did. And I’m indebted to her for her very frank but honest advice.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

1. A sequel to my second book, the 2014 bestseller, The Other Side of Loss, a tale of a young priest who one day finds the biggest lottery ticket in US history in his collection plate and becomes embroiled in a series of uncanny events on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s a story that begs a continuation.

2. A new novel about a dysfunctional family of eccentric Irish aristocracy who have a very dark, scandalous secret they need to keep hidden. Based on a real-life situation with which I’m familiar because it was my mother’s family – a family from which my mother was quite literally banished. Consequently, I never met my maternal grandparents.

3. A possible sequel to  Hope… and the Hedgehog. Because, if it strikes a chord and finds a readership, I feel I have more to say on this subject.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I will be proud if readers of Hope… and the Hedgehog are just encouraged (not coerced!) to think about the essence of the book and come away hopeful for themselves and others going forward with their lives. If the book touches their lives in this way, then yes, it was worth the effort.

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You can find me on Facebook @authortomvaughan and on Twitter @mrtomvaughan

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