For years I have resisted the whole blogging/posting thing. I should be writing novels, I’d say, when my friends and family brought it up – and besides, no one needs to know about the author – it’s the characters in my work that are significant.
But I’ve been surprised – I’ve found it satisfying and refreshing. And then someone mentioned my parched ‘about’ page – so here I am, rummaging around in my murky past to find something to say about myself.
It’s my take on it, of course, and my novels are all about the different ways two people from the same family will see things, but this is my understanding of it – and out of it, I have become who I am.
I’m the younger of two sisters – we were raised in a family hushed and stunted by the threat of violence and became orphans when I was just twelve and she fifteen.
I would like to acknowledge something here – something which I couldn’t see at the time. No child is ever responsible for a parent’s violence – ever. For many years I wished she’d stop challenging him – I thought we’d have peace if she did. But the violence was his, not hers – she was a child looking for love, like we all were.
Our parents were killed in a car accident on their way back from a party one Saturday night and we were woken on Sunday morning by two policemen at the front door. We neither went to their funeral nor discussed them again, in fact we began a new school less than forty-eight hours after the crash. The occupants of the other car were fined a few thousand pounds for drunk driving, a fact I discovered while flicking through a local newspaper, some months later. We spent what remained of our childhood with our aunt’s family and it didn’t work out well.
Children do what they can to be happy, and I kept a low profile. Keeping my sister on an even keel was my all-consuming purpose in life. One false step or wrong word and she would certainly bring my world to a terrifying stop, but far worse than that, she and my father created a war zone which excluded my mother and I as we watched frozen from the side-lines. I both loved and feared my sister and I continued to both love and fear the people I drew close into my life for many years.
Eventually, with little sign of things calming down, I went into therapy and began to understand the vital part I played in the continuing soap opera that was my life. ‘It wasnae me officer’ just didn’t cut it. It was me, just as much as it was the people I chose (after all I was an adult wasn’t I?) to surround myself with, and if I wanted a different life, it was me that had to change.
I gave up cigarettes, my sister and my husband – cold turkey. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever done – like losing the reason to live. I could never have done it without intense professional support.
Leave this paragraph out if you are averse to therapy speak! Between us we built what in the trade is sometimes called – a strong and nurturing ‘inner-parent’. Once that was done we asked her to draw up some strong boundaries for my so-called ‘inner child’. This took months. It’s a bit like saying to a child – I know you’re thirsty, but coke will rot your teeth – how about a glass of spring water. You may even grow to like it – and you’ll definitely like the lack of rotten teeth. And I did. I do.
Finding myself with nothing to fear created a huge scary space in my life and very slowly I began to fill it with healthy options. And eventually I began to write.
With little meaningful education, it took two decades to understand and learn the art of storytelling and the process has changed my life. Amazingly I found an agent for my first novel, but it didn’t sell and since then I’ve had three agents, rewritten and rewritten a thousand times, completed two novels and am about to start the second draft of a new one.
In case any of you are wondering – I’ve not written my own story. I find that if I come close to characters I’ve known, I lose my unbiased observation as a writer. But I do know what it’s like to be too afraid to breathe, to straddle a wire fence, unable to decide which side to fall – onto broken glass or upturned nails, full to the brim with the futile hope that I won’t be hurt this time. I know what it’s like to watch someone you love beg to be battered. And these experiences have helped me, sometimes, find a truth for my characters.
Steve (husband of twenty years:)) and I have just moved back to the West Coast of Scotland to a hut I built during those wilderness years. It’s brilliant being here under different circumstances.
I’ve not finished this or maybe I have. But I think I’ll put it up here anyway. Comments welcome.