In 2017, author R. L. Waterman – known by friends as Becky – released her first novel, A Year in the Life of Jack Meadows, and moved from her home on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire to Uganda’s busy capital Kampala. With her engineer husband, Dave, she works with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in Africa, the world’s largest humanitarian airline. MAF operates light aircraft in 26 developing countries to deliver lifesaving cargo to some of the world’s remotest places. Becky loves to write, and engage with local charity projects to help her local community.
Describe a typical day for you?
It’s 6.30am when the alarm sounds. That’s if I’ve been able to sleep through the 5am call to prayer belted through the local mosque’s sound system. I rise quickly from bed, to the sounds of the busy city of Kampala waking from its slumber. After a quick breakfast (usually Weetabix with banana and yoghurt), I wave farewell to my husband as he heads to the MAF hangar to work on the aircraft bringing essential aid all around Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Then my day begins.
What it looks like varies drastically. I try to fit in a little exercise before the day gets too hot, and then consider the essential tasks required. In the UK I was used to easy conveniences like groceries delivered to my door, and ready-made foods at my fingertips. Things are more complex here, and household tasks take longer. I might take a walk up the hill to the local market to pick up some fresh vegetables and fruit, and wander slowly back to my home to grab my laptop, sit on the veranda and start typing. It might be a blog, or it might be work on my next novel.
It gets dark early this close to the equator, so after our working days we share a meal, and settle down with a movie, a book or a trip to see some friends. Then it’s early to bed, ready for the 6.30am alarm the very next day.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I’m not sure there is a greater feeling for an author than holding the book you have nursed from initial idea, through to finished product. It brought a tear to my eye when the box arrived and I tore off the packaging to see the fruit of my labours. Suddenly a vague concept had become something tangible I could pick up.
Despite that, my biggest achievements are less related to the goals I’ve ticked off my list, and more about the relationships I’ve cultivated. There is no bigger thrill for me than encouraging another person to chase their own dreams and live up to their own potential. There is no way I’d rather be remembered than as a friend.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
A good wad of cash. At the time of writing one British Pound is worth 5,000 Ugandan Shillings, and not a lot of places take credit cards. It’s a strange sensation withdrawing a million shillings from a cash machine. I’m always armed with a bag to pick up some shopping, a hairbrush to tame the mess the humidity makes of my hair, and hand sanitiser in case I’m out and about and there’s no soap.
What are your ambitions in life?
My passion in life is for people, and helping them in any way I can. I hope to write books that will inspire creativity in others, give them a respite from the pressures of life and bring some positivity in a world which seems increasingly full of bad news.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
I think I knew deep down inside how difficult it would be to break into the world of fiction. As a teller of tales, my mind often slides into dreams of different stories and worlds, and many a time as I drifted into sleep I imagined the accolades that would inevitably come with my first published work.
Instead I found myself in the same place as many other new talents, sending endless letters to literary agents, and receiving endless rejections. In such a competitive world, it is incredibly hard to find that big break, and at first that broke me. It took me many months to pick myself up, dust myself off and decide to self-publish my first novel. The positive reception it has received has been well worth the stress of those days.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
If I had the faintest idea I would tell you. My life seems to shift so drastically every five years that I honestly couldn’t say where my footsteps will take me.
Who could have foreseen that five years after finishing school I would have completed a degree, been offered a great job in the world of consulting, and then handed in my notice to take the terrifying step of starting my own freelance writing business.
Who could have foreseen that five years after that I would have given that business up as well, to focus fully on my first novel and to dedicate time volunteering at my local church and to other charities.
Who could have foreseen that a further five years would see me stepping foot on a plane, waving goodbye to England, and winging my way toward my new home in Africa.
Who can foresee where the next five years will take me!
What advice would you give a budding author?
‘If you want to be a writer, write.’ It’s a quote I read some years ago and it has always stayed with me. When I first thought to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as the case may be), I remember spending a long time browsing the internet, and hoping to find some key to success in the search results. ‘The Top Ten Tips to Be the Best Writer,’ ‘Five Keys to Guarantee Your Way to Success with Publishers,’ the list goes on and on. It’s so easy to find distractions taking over, even those with the best intentions.
It took me far too long to learn the lesson that without actually writing, I would never be a writer. There’s a good chance that your first book, or even your first few books, won’t be the incredible success story of your dreams, but without the lessons you will learn from sitting down and writing what is in your heart, you will never find your masterpiece.
Finally, happiness is…
Recognising that there are positive things in even the darkest day, and hanging onto them when the going gets tough. There is no secret to happiness, but finding joy in the small things, in family and friends, in a job well done, in holding on to faith in people and in God; it is in those small things that I find my happiness.
A Year in the Life of Jack Meadows is available for sale on Amazon – http://amzn.eu/fP3lczF. To follow R. L. Waterman’s adventure in Uganda, visit her blog, www.dbwaterman.com, or find out more information at www.maf-uk.org/waterman.