John’s novel explores long journey for Approval

Debut novelist John D. Rutter tells Fiona Finch why he hopes his new book draws attention to the need for more people to adopt youngsters. But, written from a would be adopter’s perspective, it also raises key questions about the road to adoption.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 11:52 am

Prestonian John D. Rutter’s newly published work ‘Approval’ focuses on the journey facing one man and his wife, David and Cicci, as they seek to adopt a child.

David's past life is peeled back and his choices and often troubling previous experiences are pushed centre stage.

The 178 page volume is, he stresses, a work of fiction. But it has an authentic voice, for during part of the time John was writing the book, he and his wife were going through the process of being approved as potential adopters.

John D. Rutter, pictured with a copy of his novel Approval, which is published by Saraband this week Photo: Neil Cross

And while the story is fictional, the issues it raises are very real and have contemporary resonance in the UK where there are currently more than 70,000 children in care and in need of a home.

John and wife Lin from Frenchwood, Preston, were eventually approved as potential adoptive parents, but not before many, many months of the necessary scrutiny of their past lives, jobs, relationships and home.

Ultimately they decided not to proceed to adoption and accepted that despite their earlier hopes they would not become parents. After more than a decade of hoping to start a family and ultimately seeking approval to adopt time had moved on and he said: "Eventually we just became exhausted with the process ... From the point of making the first contact and getting the letter saying we are approved and starting getting to the next stage was nearly two years.”

Their past lives and motivations were scrutinised and he said: “I feel like guilt is definitely one of the emotions. You feel like you’re on trial.”

His novel illuminates a process of judgement and how the past can unexpectedly inform the present. It won the NorthBound Book Award 2020 for new northern based writers which offers a publishing deal and £5,000 prize. The book grew from a series of short stories written while John was studying for his PhD on the short story at Edge Hill University. It references current events which were in the news and Lancashire.

The exploration of a man’s attitude to being childless and hopes for a family is new territory for a novel and John said: “I think men of my generation wouldn’t talk about personal things... In real life I have friends whose wives have had miscarriages and (you) find out about it 20 years later.”

In his author’s note John said: “This is a work of fiction and it is worth stating clearly that the people and events are made up ....This book should not deter any individual who might provide a home for a child in care from considering adoption.”

He added: “I hope it draws attention to the need for there to be more people to adopt.”

John acknowledges that the demands on adoption agencies mean many more staff are needed to help speed up the vetting process and help more children find homes.

The 57 year old a former management consultant who changed roles to become an academic, teacher and writer, first gained a Masters in creative writing at Lancaster University before going to Edge Hill. He said: “I hadn’t always wanted to be a writer. It had never occurred to me.

“I chucked in my corporate management job at 46 in a Reggie Perrin style snap and said not this any more. I had had business jobs for 25 years and came out of a board meeting and said to my boss I don’t want to do this any more...get the HR bod. I’ll just not come tomorrow. Why? Because it was so silly.

“I had some months of not knowing exactly what I wanted to do .. I stopped studying English and English literature at 16 because my parents had a different direction for me."

He enrolled for a creative writing class at Preston College in 2010 and set off on a new path. Since then several of his short stories have been published in the Lancashire Post.

He said wife Lin is: “happy there’s a distance between real life and fiction ...All the events (in Approval) are fictional but in an quantum way equally they reveal some of the truth.”

* Approval is published by Salford and Glasgow based publisher Saraband on August 26 at £9.99.

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