Thank you for picking up IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE, my debut novel. And, while I’m thanking you, let me extend my gratitude to someone I like to call Mr Renault Laguna. Without him, I’m not sure this book would ever have been written.
Almost ten years to the day before this novel’s publication date, I was about to sit the final exams in my journalism training course. I was on my way home, walking out of Mile End tube station in London, my head full of facts and figures. I started to cross the road, but didn’t make it to the other side. As I crossed the first two of three lanes of traffic, the green man started flashing. When I stepped into the third lane I was swept off my feet by a Renault Laguna, whose driver had ignored the amber flashing traffic light warning him to approach with caution.
The inside back cover of If I Die Before I Wake
I broke both my legs and suffered bad ligament damage in both knees (the doctors were very excited by the near-identical injuries in both legs), and smashed the windscreen of the car with my head. It was a rough time: I struggled to imagine being able to walk again. But now, several years on, I am grateful for it, because those morphine-laced days I spent in hospital recovering helped me write this novel.
I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be ‘locked-in’, like my character Alex, but I have some idea how vulnerable you feel when you are unable to get out of bed and are totally reliant on other people for basic care. I know how trippy it is to be drugged up on painkillers, and how surreal the visits from your friends and family are as a result.
But my run-in with that Renault Laguna gave me more than just material. More importantly, it galvanised me to sit down and write the book I’d always known I wanted to write. Would I have left my job to write this book if I hadn’t been hit that day? I’d probably still be putting together newslists for tomorrow’s paper and telling myself: ‘One day, I’ll write my book.’ It’s a rather overused phrase, but life really is too short.
As you read this book, you will see Alex grappling with this issue, too. He feels he has wasted too much time – and as he tells his story, more of his days are slipping away.
I hope you enjoy joining Alex in his race against the clock, piecing together the mystery of what has happened to him. I hope it keeps you turning pages, but also makes you hug your family a little closer each time you put the book down. I hope you do that thing you’ve always wanted to do (once you’ve finished reading this book, of course!).
Thanks for reading.