I’ve always wanted to write about my chronic illness, but it wasn’t until I went to the Lake District with a friend that Gut Feelings – my second book – came alive. It had been a month since I left my job, leaving behind the toxicity that comes with corporate jobs so often. I was suffering quite badly with depression. I didn’t want to leave my room. I wouldn’t go into the kitchen in case I saw my housemates. Every day at work had been like walking on eggshells, but when I was in the Lake District, I got to experience and calm and stillness like I’ve never felt before.
The air was so pure. We couldn’t get coverage on our phones so if it was a bit of a digital detox. It was a cold springtime afternoon when everything clicked. I didn’t have to worry about work or finances. I wasn’t constantly eyeing my phone, trying to be relevant, obsessively replying to emails and monitoring social media. In one of those rare moments where everything suddenly and unexplainably clicks, I knew that Gut Feelings had to be told in verse. The story was always going to be about my own experiences. I didn’t need to do much research as it was based solely on the diagnosis, treatment and aftermath of my illness: familial adenomatous polyposis (or FAP for short). It’s an inherited disorder caused by the rapid growth of small, pre-cancerous polyps or adenomas in the large intestine (and the lining of the rectum). If untreated, they turn cancerous and for me, they were quickly changing. The surgeries, the medication, the emotions I went through – I felt it all so deeply and when it came to write the book, the content wasn’t the problem; the form was.
I found it so difficult to even think about writing it in prose. I get asked often why I wrote it in verse. The truth is that when I tried explaining it to new friends or potential partners, I found it so difficult to condense my illness and its impact on my life into just two or three sentences. This was what they expected and I could never achieve it. By limiting the words, it made me think really clearly about what I wanted to say and how exactly I was going to say it. I thought about every word and where exactly that word would be positioned on the page. I felt the emotional aspect of this story on a level I’d never experienced before.
Once I unlocked the form, the free verse flowed. It was such a cathartic experience writing about my illness. It led to conversations with my mam about how it impacted her and my grandad. It’s a genetic disorder and so the story gave me an opportunity to explore some of my own family relationships as well as those shared with lovers. I broke through the walls and reached that level of vulnerability that I find extremely difficult to connect with and embrace. I was able to talk about how invisible illness impacts me as a gay man and wat that has meant in my personal and work life.
Although I’d written my debut, Fall Out, at this point, writing Gut Feelings, was almost like writing my first novel again in many ways. I’d never written in verse. At school, we learned about poetry in a regimented way that didn’t let me hear the heartbeat of each poem. What I knew of verse was what I learned and so, I listened to my own heartbeat to try and find my distinct style while also shedding light on FAP and more widely around invisible illness. As an author, you’re always thinking about your reader. Without readers, your book doesn’t have an audience and without an audience, a publisher is unlikely to publish your story. This is always in the back of my mind. It’s rarely a conscious thought. The most important thing for me is to write for myself. I write best when I enjoy the process, when I am challenged to create something I am passionate about. With Gut Feelings, I am proud to say that I have created something that still takes my breath away when I re-visit it.
(c) C.G. Moore
About Gut Feelings:
I learned that words,
More than weapons,
Could destroy bodies,
Could break hearts
More than fists or fury.
This is the story of Chris, what happened to him at age eleven and how that would change the rest of his life. A life-affirming and powerful coming of age verse novel that shines a light on chronic illness, who we are and how we live.
Familial adenomatous polyposis
fa mIljal aedI na matas p la pousIs
An inherited disorder characterised by the rapid growth of small, pre-cancerous polyps in the large intestines.
Order your copy of Gut Feelings online here.