“Happiness is a journey, not a destination” – Gil Wozelka
Gil Wozelka’s novella Les Petits Galets – roughly translated: The Little Pebbles – was originally released back in 2012 to critical acclaim. French publication L’Expresss called the book “A literary ray of sunshine, enough to brighten up today’s grey skies”. On April 26th, Matthew James is releasing A Single Way to Happiness – the book’s English translation and Gil Wozelka’s first English language release.
With the release date creeping up, we asked Gil to tell us all about the process and the story of how this short, unique, novel about a young boy and his caregiver came to be.
Hi Gil, how does it feel for A Single Way to Happiness to finally be available in the UK?
I’m very happy that my book will reach the British public. The French version has proved to me that this book can bring its readers many positive and beautiful things, so I am genuinely delighted that English speakers will also be able to enjoy what it has to offer.
A Single Way to Happiness is a very raw and personal look at the struggles people, particularly children, have when suffering from cancer. Where did the idea for the story come from?
The story is fiction. However, having said this, I have an incredible story I’d like to tell you: A couple of months after the book was published [in France], I went to Bali on vacation where I had a chance meeting with a local shaman who informed me that, in one of my previous lives, I’d been a caregiver for sick children. I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is, then my story is a true story from a previous life.
The perspective of the story is interesting too. Why was the decision made for Tom’s story to be told from the perspective of his caregiver?
You probably noticed that the caregiver in my book has no name. This is on purpose. Indeed, without a name, this person can be anyone. You, your friend, your mother, your child. By telling the story from the perspective of the caregiver without a name, I’m telling it from all of us, from you, me, from whoever you want or need it to be. This approach makes the story a universal one, not only Tom’s.
The original French release of the book was called Les Petits Galets, which roughly translates to ‘The Little Pebbles’, can you explain the importance of the pebbles to this story?
This is an important point, firstly because I come from a place called “Le pin de Galle” in the south of France, which has a pebble beach. These pebbles are close to my heart. Secondly, because these pebbles are highly symbolic and represent stepping stones or each step of the journey that Tom takes leading to him to inner transformation and happiness.
It’s such a wonderfully concise story too. How do you feel about writing these shorter form stories? Is it easier or harder than working on a longer piece?
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been pondering on the notion of happiness. I collected a list of rules and behaviours to follow to be happy or to improve our sense of happiness. At first, I wanted to write a book for my children, to explain these rules to them, one by one. I started, but after a few pages, I decided to stop since this version was too hard to read and digest. Then the idea came to me to encapsulate my messages in a story, and this is how I started to write this book.
I didn’t know how the story was going to unfold or end. I wrote it in one go without thinking, simply writing what flowed out naturally. Once finished, I hardly corrected it. Much less than the 2 following books (since this book is the first volume of a trilogy).
To answer your question, generally speaking, I think that writing something short is harder than something long, but in this specific case, it was easier.
When somebody reads A Single Way to Happiness, what is one thing you hope that they take from the story?
Each secret is different and speaks differently to each one of us. My hope is that everyone finds a secret – their own secret – one that speaks to their heart and brings them a little happiness.
And finally, it is said that true happiness is found within, but what is it that makes you happy?
Happiness is a journey, not a destination. And my journey has just started.