Hello, everyone! Damianista welcomes you to a NEW Fan Story Tuesday!
Today’s fan story comes from a very special fan, Christine Wilson. You know we always talk about the inspiration Damian constantly provides for us to write about him and his brilliant work. And, in Christine’s case, this inspiration turned into a book that you may have heard earlier: Meeting Damian Lewis. JaniaJania wrote a wonderful review of the book here and we highly recommend you to read it — it is brilliant! And it is our true pleasure today to have Christine here sharing with us how she became a Damian Lewis fan and how the book idea came about, well, over a bottle of wine, maybe two, with a friend. Cheers!
We were well into our second bottle of wine – Steve and me – at the Victoria Wine Bar in London’s East Sheen… I had warmed to my favourite subject – Damian Lewis.
‘Did you see him in Band of Brothers’ I said, pouring another glass of red.
Steve was a freelance TV director and like me, watched a lot of television. He smiled his reply. I was on a roll.
‘Band of Brothers’ was possibly the least likely series for me to have watched, let alone liked and especially loved. In fact I didn’t just love it – I was pretty obsessed with it. Usually I absolutely hate war films, war drama – anything featuring war and anything with an all male cast. Ok – its not like I don’t like watching men on TV, quite the reverse it’s just all male series often carry a strong whiff of testosterone and feature a heavy dose of showing off. Band of Brothers could not have been less like my idea of a stereotypical, all male war series.
First of all, the men were hot although not in the classic sense. They were vulnerable and well cast because they all looked so young. Enough time was given to each one for us to care about them and their boyish enthusiasm for something we knew to be sheer horror. We watched them grow up on screen. There was David Schwimmer playing massively against type. And of course there was Damian Lewis.
Damian Lewis has a face and a bearing that is mesmerising. He doesn’t have to do anything at all. His face shows what pages of script cannot. He could show anger, compassion, and grief… any emotion you like with just one big close up of his face. ‘Damian Lewis gave good eyebrow’. And of course the way he was and the way he was with his men, a brave man, and a great leader. A good person a caring friend. This was his character of course, but watching him I just knew that he had to be like this a man as no one could possibly be that good an actor, could they?
Steve agreed with me that Damian Lewis was an extremely good actor and welcomed my theme of how much I had enjoyed Band of Brothers. I had been moved to choked-up tearful blubbering during the scenes when the concentration camp had been liberated. I couldn’t recall every having seen this tackled by a film or TV drama before. It was shockingly realistic and made me feel like I was there. And who could forget the scene where Damian Lewis as Major Dick Winters went swimming in the Austrian lake when the war was all but over? Or perhaps the wonderfully brave Speirs who said the secret was to accept you were ‘already dead’? Or that incredible moment right at the end when all the characters appeared as themselves, as old men and we learned what had happened to them all?
‘I just wish I could meet him’, I sighed to Steve. And in my head I was already imagining how it would go. He would see me, smile and come over to talk to me. Soon we’d be doubled up laughing with our shared sense of humour.
Since my father had died a few months before I had taken extended, unpaid leave from my freelance TV career in order to try and get some closure. I’d watched a lot of TV. My mind was creatively alive and I just needed a focus for wildly stimulated imagination.
‘What if I was to write about a girl wanting to meet Damian Lewis? I said suddenly seeing it with great clarity.
‘Someone like you?’ said Steve.
‘Yes. Well, no. Not like me. I mean I work in television, I sort of know what it is like to meet famous people. Anyway, I don’t really want to write about myself.’
I glanced at the bar and the barman who was getting another bottle of wine ready for our table. ‘Say he was a girl. Say he was a girl who wanted to meet Damian Lewis and he – er, she, worked here.’
I looked at the ruby red wine. And his, her name was Ruby’!? It was a name I liked.
Steve nodded along encouragingly. (But to be fair Steve was so tipsy by now he’d have laughed at anything.)
“So we have a girl, who works in a bar in East Sheen, called Ruby who would like to meet Damian Lewis’.
The novel was taking shape!
More wine flowed and I decided that Steve was the freelance director who Ruby saw in the bar. That worked – except Steve was unemployed at that time – so I would make Ruby’s TV Director, Jack, and a Documentary Director. A drama director who was working might well be able to facilitate Ruby’s dream – well, unlikely but feasible – a documentary producer probably wouldn’t.
So, I had a leading character, and her male lead character, as well as her place of work and where she lived.
We both got wildly excited by this stage as we saw ways of making this work and by now I really felt I knew this girl. She was me – but not me really. Jack was more me than Ruby but he wasn’t me either. By the end of the night the idea for Meeting Damian Lewis – the novel was so fixed in my mind I felt like it was written already.
I woke the next day with a fairly shocking hangover but also alive with excitement. The idea hadn’t somehow gone away overnight. If anything it felt stronger and stronger and I felt I knew these characters. They had begun speaking to me and I was anxious to begin writing as soon as possible.
I set myself a goal of 1,000 words a day. I would write 1,000 words no matter what and I found this very easy as the story seemed to take shape the more I wrote and I often wrote more words. When wasn’t writing I would turn on Band of Brothers to help give me the inspiration and to see what Ruby was seeing.
I phoned Arvon a company that provide writing courses – something I had always wanted to do and now had a good reason for. Would they have a place? Yes, they had a cancellation for a course in Shropshire just a few week‘s ahead. And I wrote that into my novel. I was living my own story and my story was becoming part of my novel.
And so it began.
And for a period of time I was not only writing Meeting Damian Lewis but I was watching him regularly on television – in The Forsyte Saga and a comedy about Jeffrey Archer. It seemed he could do anything.
And it wasn’t just the television – it was the press too. The press loved him. And I went to see him in a few stage plays too – was there anything the man couldn’t do? Well meet me perhaps. I have seen Damian Lewis but never chatted to him or had that laugh with him. But maybe by writing Meeting Damian Lewis I had achieved my own destiny. Time will tell!