This is an important theme in much of my work, although, again, usually unplanned. It just seemed to happen that many of my protagonists had absent or inadequate fathers, perhaps not surprising given my own experience. My father was physically present, but emotionally distant and definitely disapproving – not that I blame him. Having intended to be a priest and spent four years in a Catholic Seminary, where he was taught to shun all worldly pleasures and all intimate relationships, family life can’t have been easy for him when he eventually left to get married. Children tend to lack all the virtues he prized – dutifulness, discipline, asceticism, self-control – and he saw me in particular as greedy, silly, clumsy and lazy. (I admit to the first three, but not to the last!)
Early in life, I turned to God the Father as the perfect substitute. He loved me, He cared about me – even down to every hair on my head! But, at the age of seventeen, I began to doubt my former rock-solid Faith and was subsequently expelled for heresy. At a stroke, the benevolent Father-God who’d been my life-support till then, turned into a merciless avenger. To this day, I still fear Hell and, in many of my books, I examine the conflict I personally experienced between the desire to be “good” (dutiful, obedient, conformist) or the urge to go wild, break out, or kick against convention. The authors who most appeal to me tend to combine these two opposing strands in their make-up – John Donne most of all, at once the devout prelate and the shameless sensualist.
Anthony’s father is outwardly a good egg, giving his son every advantage in life and constantly encouraging him to succeed. But therein lies the rub – second-best simply won’t do for Beaumont Senior, who has zero tolerance for anything short of perfection. Thus Anthony feels he is loved not for himself, only for his achievements, and grows up uncertain of whether he can become a father – even questions whether he’s able to love at all.