I’m delighted to be part of the online book tour for Sentenced by Victoria Oak. Huge thanks to Victoria and LiterallyPR for having me and for my copy of the book!
Today, I’m really excited to share with you an exclusive guest post by Victoria on the story behind Sentenced. Read on to find out more about how this fascinating book came to life!
The Story Behind Sentenced
by Victoria Oak
I bought Andy and I A4 black files with lots of paper. We agreed that we would write every day either for four hours or 10 sides until the book was written. That was doable as some days writing was effortless and 15 sides were done in under three hours. Other days it was like wading through mud. Almost all the writing was done in my Portugal villa between 2013 and 2014. Each night we would sit on the terrace and read what we had written to each other and pass comment. Andy said at the beginning he would only write about his experience in prison. At first I left him to it but as I began to write about my family, he dipped his foot in the water and wrote about his own.
For my own part, there are four pieces that wrote themselves: the rape, running by the cliff and my tongue running round the inside of my mouth feeling the missing teeth, where my grinding had split three perfect molars in half, and the chapter ‘Loss, On the Train’. Also, wherever I have written about Andy. I found writing about the marriage awful. It was, however, lovely to recall The Road to Santiago.
Gradually, our handwritten pieces spilled off the dining table. I made a space on the floor in the spare bedroom and, using labelled dividers, began to organise the content. Little did I know then that it would be seven years before the book would be ready to go to print. When we got back to England for the third time, I parcelled out the writing to both professional and amateur typists.
Andy by then had moved to Southampton and later Wales where he still lives. At that point the divorce proceedings were beginning to fill every day. Eventually, after the divorce, selling the family home and moving into a small, terraced house requiring renovation, three years had passed Sentenced by. Somehow, I managed to gather all the typed manuscripts from the seven or eight typists. But now what? My girls had organised my gap year to Peru and Bolivia. One of the most pressing questions I asked during one of seven Ayahuasca ceremonies I was part of was: how do I edit the book? I received two very clear visions. The first, an aerial view of an orchard of lilac bushes over which a squadron of bees flew steadily in formation pollinating the flowers. I was then shown a world war two plane being checked over meticulously by mechanics. Nothing was overlooked.
When I returned, I employed a friend, Marie, an English teacher, to help me with what turned out to be three edits. We went out to Portugal and she pushed me to do eight hours a day without a break for eight weeks – the worker bees!
I then employed my daughter Emma to meticulously go over every one of my lines regarding my marriage and breakup, as she said, “to take out your opinions and replace them with feelings.” We met two to three times a week at the British Library.
Next, I asked Jazz, a friend who was an English lecturer at Cambridge, for a professional edit. She recommended the Oscar Wilde quotes, saw that the book needed to split into four, to break the letters up and introduced “Change”. She organised the Foreword, Appendix etc and had many inciteful comments.
After a tumultuous time, I decided it was right to self publish and here we are, receiving incredible reviews from people I’ve never met, showing people that there are opportunities in life to make a change and a difference – to yourself and others.
About the Book
A true story following the remarkable, long-lasting and unlikely friendship that develops between two strangers – a London housewife bringing up four children and a British prisoner incarcerated in Thailand.
As they begin to exchange letters, each tells a personal story of being sentenced – Vicky in a desperate and loveless marriage; Andy within the walls of one of the world’s most notorious prisons.
What unfolds is a moving tale of entrapment and freedom, love and friendship, and the human capacity to withstand and overcome immense pain and suffering in the face of adversity… with the right people on your side.
About the Author
On paper, Victoria Oak is like any other middle-class woman of a certain age. That is until you meet her. She refuses to fit into a mould. Born ten minutes before her twin, she was, from the start several shades darker, a throwback from her Indian great grandfather, nicknamed the Aga Khan by her Godmother.
Victoria read Drama and English at Birmingham University. She had steered clear of the careers department and threw herself into set design, fashion modelling, waitressing and painting murals. She was never out of a job but when she fell off a ladder 7 months pregnant, she decided to call it a day.
She and her husband shared a passion for travelling and sport but well before the children were adult, she realised the marriage was over. She completed the Road to Santiago in May 2012, placing 2000 prayer stones along the Camino asking for her dear friend Andy’s release from the Thai prison. When she returned, she asked for a divorce and a five-year battle through the courts ensued. It was during this miserable time that Andy was released from prison, came to stay in her home for 18 months and in this time, they wrote ‘Sentenced’ together. After the divorce Victoria had what she calls her gap year. The Inca trail in Peru, Ayahuasca in the Amazon, a retreat in Sedona and New Zealand, and finally Australia.
Since then, Victoria has spent four years editing Sentenced. Just before Covid reared its head, she caught Pneumonia which triggered Lyme’s disease. Hardly able to get out of bed or the bath, she determined to get ‘Sentenced’ published within the year.