Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Robert Fear has lived in Eastbourne, on the south coast of the UK for half his life. He moved there to be with Lynn, his future wife and is still there with her thirty years later. As cat-lovers they have taken on several rescue cats over the years and are owned by three at the moment - Hazell (tabby), Jet (black) and Sparky, a bouncy ginger one-year-old.
For his day job Robert works as a self-employed software consultant. In his spare time he writes, edits, self-publishes books, and organises annual travel writing competitions.
Robert’s interest in travel goes back to his twenties when he spent most of his time abroad. His experiences included; a summer in Ibiza, hitch-hiking around Europe and touring the USA & Canada. His most eventful trip was in 1981 when he travelled around Asia.
Born into a religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren, his father John took the brave step of leaving it with his young family when Robert was nine years old. Robert never saw his grandparents again but is thankful for being able to grow up outside this restrictive group. His life has been full of adventures he would never have experienced otherwise.
Background to Exclusive Pedigree by Robert Fear
A lot of my spare time, especially over the past couple of years, has been devoted to making my father’s dream come true.
It started for me back in 1992 when my father, John, was becoming increasingly frail and was confined to bed most of the time. Visits to the hospital became more frequent and the doctors were talking about months, not years.
John had been working on his memoirs for several years and had already typed up many of the chapters. He also had plans in place for finishing the remaining chapters of his book. Now he could not continue and my mother, Mary, called me to see if I could help. I was more than happy to.
In the evenings and at weekends I sat at my computer and transcribed the chapters that John had already finished. These were duly printed off and sent back to him. There was a regular flow of padded brown envelopes with hand written corrections made by John and more words for some of the later chapters.
I also made the trip from Eastbourne to the village of Cumnor in Oxfordshire several times. It was a period of reconciliation between father and eldest son as we discussed changes he wanted made and planned for the missing chapters.
The last time I saw my father alive was several months before he passed away in October 1993. I sat on the end of his bed for hours as we talked further about the book. Despite being breathless and in constant need of oxygen, he insisted that I turn the tape recorder on him. There then followed the most enthralling story of an experience he had in his early twenties.
During the months following his death, I continued working on John’s memoirs with the help of Mary and my brother, Alastair. We completed the half-finished chapters as best we could and used some of the letters that John had written home, along with diary extracts and magazine articles, to fill in some of the gaps. Alastair also wrote the final three chapters, which covered the closing months of John’s life.
A friend of the family who had print connections then took over and produced around a hundred copies for distribution around friends and family. The limited edition was published under the title Exclusive Pedigree and if it hadn’t been for a chance remark the life of the book would have ended there.
Late in 2015 I was visiting my mother for a few days. Mary still lives in the same cottage in Cumnor and is near to my brother, Alastair, who lives with his family in Abingdon. I gave her a paperback copy of the second edition of my memoir Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia, which she wanted to read. Conversation turned to self-publishing and we talked about John’s memoirs. Then came the bombshell, “Did you know Rob that John always wanted to have his book published properly?”
It had never occurred to me. I always thought that it was his wish to have it produced the way that it was. Now I had a fresh challenge and after discussing it further with Mary and my brother, I started editing the previously published book and put plans in place to self-publish it. With the experience of publishing my own memoir, I felt that I could do my father proud.
But first I had to recover the files. The backup files were sitting on a floppy disk and in an old format, DisplayWrite. Neither my PC nor laptop had a floppy drive, so I bought an external one and then tried to copy the files across. Whatever format I chose the result was a garbled mess. Eventually I got them copied across in plain text but then spent hours stripping out redundant data, before I could start the job of editing and formatting.
Move on a few months and thanks to the tremendous support of beta-readers and fellow authors alike, my father’s memoirs were professionally self-published in July 2016. I think John would have been proud of the finished result.
Since the book was published eighteen months ago it has been widely acclaimed and received some excellent reviews with high ratings.
Amazon US: 25 reviews, Average 4.6*
Amazon UK: 18 reviews, Average 4.6*
Goodreads: 18 ratings, 11 reviews, Average 4.5*
More importantly though the book has been discovered by long lost members of the family who had similar experiences leaving the Exclusive Brethren and have got in touch with me. In turn I was able to put them in touch with my mother Mary, who has been reunited with cousins and first cousins she lost touch with decades ago or had never even met before. Only this week she is being visited by
the family of a grandson of her father’s older brother, who has been farming in Wales for the past 30 years. It promises to be an emotional meeting.
It is fantastic to see these unexpected benefits as well as having played a part in making my father’s dream come true.
John and Mary 1991
Exclusive Pedigree: getBook.at/ExclusivePedigree
Fred was a nickname that I was given while at school. It became my travel name and I am still known as Fred to this day.
Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia is the edited version of a handwritten diary that I kept during my travels in Asia between February and July 1981. I had never committed any of my previous travels to paper in the way I did for this long awaited journey into the unknown. The final collection ran to 600 pages of closely written detail.
After returning from my travels, I settled in Frankfurt, Germany and stayed there for five years. On my return to England I took the A4 folder containing the diary with me. It was almost forgotten for many years, only making an appearance when friends asked to see it or to read it.
It wasn’t until around 2005 that I decided to start typing up my diary onto the computer. I managed to get the first two months done but then ran out of motivation.
A couple of years later there was an article in a PC magazine about Kindle and self-publishing that sparked my interest again.
The second part of my diary was released in 2009 and its title, Time in Thailand, probably indicates to you that things didn’t go as planned. £99 to Hong Kong was published in 2011 and covers the first part of my trip where I did some work as an extra for Chinese television.
By now the bug had truly bitten and I started planning the release of the whole diary.
Fred’s Diary 1981 was self-published in December 2013 and was relatively successful with a good number of excellent reviews on Amazon UK and US. It was a long book though. The paperback version ran to 564 pages and contained 165K words.
During the first few months of 2015 further editing was undertaken and the second edition, released in October 2015, contained less than 100K words, with around 360 pages. It also had a professional final edit and a wonderful new cover.
I am not sure what inspired me to write the diary way back then but the editing of it in recent years has given me great pleasure and bought back a lot of memories. With the advent of Kindle it has been great to be able to self-publish and share my experiences with so many people.
Part 1 of my diary has just been released as an audiobook. It covers my time in Hong Kong and Thailand. I would like to offer 5 free copies to readers of this blog. The first 5 readers to add a comment requesting a copy will get one.
While working on the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981, I started a blog in February 2015 to assist me with the editing process. Exactly 35 years later, to the day, I published an edited version of each day’s entry. This ran for 158 days from February through to July and coincidentally the days of the week were the same as when I originally wrote the diary.
To encourage people to visit the blog fd81.net I started a Travel Story competition, with prizes, for entries of between 500-1000 words and ran this in parallel with the daily diary extracts. There was a very encouraging response and in all there were thirty entries from a range of well-known authors to first time writers.
It was such a success that I subsequently ran another competition for Travel Highlights of between 50-100 words. Again this went very well and in all there were twenty-five entries.
I then decided to publish all the entries in a new book called Travel Stories and Highlights. After getting permission from all the contributors I started compiling the book and it was published late in 2015.
Since then I have re-run the two competitions twice. Again, there have been a lot of fantastic entries and two further books have been published, a 2017 Edition and a 2018 Edition.
The 4th Annual Travel Stories Competition starts mid-February and the best entries will in included in a 2019 Edition of Travel Stories and Highlights. If you are interested in getting involved, please check out the details here: fd81.net/competitions. I am hoping this will be the best one so far!
Robert Fear - Social Media and Book Links
Fred’s Blog: fd81.net
Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia getBook.at/FredsDiary1981
Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren getBook.at/ExclusivePedigree
Travel Stories and Highlights: 2017 Edition getBook.at/TravelStories2017
Travel Stories and Highlights: 2018 Edition getBook.at/TravelStories2018
Robert/Fred at 19