James Willstrop

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No Meat, But a Book...
Fram chats with the Author of "A Shot & a Ghost"


What led you to write a whole book?

Firstly, it was something I wanted to do, that was my ultimate motivation. I had my weekly column in the Yorkshire Evening Post and so I was gaining experience, and found enjoyment in writing.

When I spoke with Rod Gilmour and he suggested book possibilities, I was immediately positive and interested.

Secondly, there is a distinct void in good, interesting sports books, and an even bigger void with regard to squash books. I suppose my ambition was to write a decent one.

Thirdly, squash needs promoting. People like souvenirs, mementos or books and there isn't enough of this. I hope our efforts in promoting the book (and they are considerable efforts) will promote the game over the next months.

Did you write it in one go?

I wrote my diaries from Jan 2010 to Feb 2011. So the initial drafts took a year to write. Then the real work began.

It took another year to draft, re-draft and draft again and again, before editing and proof reading, which is the tedious bit.

In the end Vanessa and I read the bloody thing about three times in one weekend, checking for spelling errors and punctuation marks ... I'm sure Rod was doing the same.

Put it this way, I don't think I'll be reading it again for a while ... But an enjoyable process all the same.

Did you think about quitting writing while you were trying to finish it? Did you think, what the heck am I doing ???

There were one or two shaky moments. I knew I wanted to write the book, but at times I was unsure whether to include some passages, which involved some issues that I would never talk to anyone about.

Why it seemed easier to write about such issues in book form I'll never know, but it did! The book had to be honest, or it would have been rubbish. And rubbish books won't do will they!

Are you happy with the result?

Absolutely. I'm just waiting for it to storm the Sunday times bestseller list, but while Peter Andre is around that will remain difficult.

When you finished, did you have a bit of a let down, like after a big victory, a feeling of loneliness, emptiness?

It hasn't been too bad because in many respects there is still a lot of work to do. We, (Rod, Claudia, Graham, Steve and Nousheen at SBM, Scarlett and Jim at ESR, and Leigh at Capitalize, have been working so hard for me) are trying our utmost to promote it.

Instead of writing diary entries, I am now writing emails to get the book out there ! So far I can't thank people enough for their support. We've had a good response ... That'll all change when they read it of course!

Did it help you sort out things in your head? Can we attribute your recent success/achievement to that sorting out on paper?

Well it gave me a good focus off the squash court. I never felt that there was lots of spare time to fill at tournaments because I could always concentrate on writing.

People tend to relate the book to the wins but I'm not sure that it was the magic solution! I did enjoy putting things down on paper though.

Now about FOOOOOOOOOD....

When did you start questioning the way you were eating?

I've always been interested in nutrition. Not only is eating such a pleasurable thing to do but it is a priority for athletes. It's a shame so many people treat eating food as something to rush, or do quickly and not very well.

I started to think about the way I ate meat and the harsh way it is brought to the table about 5 or 6 years ago. In the end I couldn't face it.

What pushed you to change your diet.

I saw footage of animals being slaughtered for meat. That pushed me over the edge, and I started to avoid meat in 2007. I was at a tournament in India and knew there was no going back.

What are the challenges you have faced, and what are the advantages you find in it?

I feel better, I run faster, I train harder, and I think clearer. I feel like Popeye ... I discovered more foods and flavours that I had never tried before.

The only time it is ever challenging is when I go to a restaurant and they don't bother to offer a dish without meat, which is highly unusual, unless you are in France of course. There are plenty of great meat free foods in the world.

I suppose dealing with the people who can't believe for a minute that an athlete can be a vegetarian is fairly challenging. There have been so many, and some who you might not expect, who have doubted that it's achievable. I'm not sure why there's a stigma attached to vegetarianism, but there is.

Does your entourage follow the same diet?

The people around me at tournaments follow it when they are with me, yes! Vanessa and I drag them to all the local veggie haunts, especially in New York and London, where there are so many. ;-)




An Extract of the book...

A few Reviews....
# Squash Dashers & Bashers US

# James Willstrop is a Putz US

# In Defence of Willstrop US

# Two words seem to sum up this book, "Contradiction" and "Catharsis" UK


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