Tell Me No Lies, says Laura Wilkinson

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Friday Guest
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Memoir: fact or fiction?  

1208757_10151891817565817_1189422053_nIs it autobiographical? How much of your life is in the story? They’re questions fiction writers get asked a lot. My answers, and it would be the same for most authors I know, are no and very little.

For sure, my life experiences influence the exploration of certain themes. It has taken many years, and many narratives, to realise that a recurring theme in my work is absent parents, fathers in particular, and though it hasn’t been the driving force in my stories and novels, it is there. Always.  It’s fair to say this obsession is a direct result of my childhood experience, but my work is fictitious, categorically; the story arcs, characters, voices; all products of my imagination. It’s much more fun making things up, and I consider my own life way too boring for public consumption – I’m as ordinary as can be.

But my mother and father’s story… now that could be interesting. This story, and my small role in the latter part of it, has held an increasingly strong grip on my imagination since I heard it, in its entirety, when I was twenty-seven. Given that many of the characters are still living I haven’t had the courage to pen anything, for fear of upsetting people I love. Until now. Elsewhere is a short story, a memoir, of a part I had in the larger narrative.

It was hard to write; much harder than fiction, I found, and not because of the emotional nature of the tale but because it took me a while to relax about the facts – whether or not they were accurate. Because memoir, or life writing, shares much with fiction and one person’s truth may well differ from another’s – and often quite dramatically.

book coverI approached Elsewhere (published by Ether Books this week) like any other story, the crucial difference being that the characters, the places, were conjured not from my imagination but memory and, as we all know, memory plays tricks. So, not wanting to be hampered even further by the facts, I wrote two drafts before checking a couple of details with my mother. I’d got them slightly wrong, muddled in time and place. A mixture of recall and things my mum had told me about my paternal grandmother, Betty. See, it is their story that fascinates; so much so that I’ve placed my small self in parts of it; incorrectly as it transpires.

Should I have altered these details in search of truth? No, my mum said, it is your truth. She is right. I may not have visited Betty – or Mrs Wilkinson as I called her – at the Gothic, tumbledown house in Everton, but the sense of foreboding, rancour and sheer misery Betty secreted was real enough. The children in the school yard as my sister and I told the pie story might be playing different roles, Helen might have been wearing a different coat, but we did tell the story and it did loom over my primary years. A changeable shadow I couldn’t shake off. And it is these emotional truths that matter, that I attempt to uncover in the retelling of the tale.

We all create fictions whether we are writers or not. Stories are how we humans attempt to make sense of the world and our place in it. And perhaps the narrators of memoir are all unreliable, to a greater or lesser extent, but they are not barriers to a good yarn. Stephen King said fiction is the truth inside the lie; the same is true of memoir.

Will I write more memoir? I’m not sure; I’ve enough ‘pure’ fiction to be getting on with. But maybe one day I will tell my mother and father’s story. It has fine ingredients: young, handsome lovers; a mad, bad mother; a devoted maiden aunt; a missing husband; mental illness; 60s asylums and tragic deaths. I just need to find my angle. Just. Ha. Until then it’s back to the novels.

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Elsewhere is available from Ether Books. Download the App onto your iPhone, iPad, Android for FREE here.

Ether Books is a new mobile social reading platform, connecting Writers and Readers around the world. Ether publishes “made for mobile” Quick Reads straight to Smart Phones, the fastest growing digital reading device on the planet. Discover talented new and bestselling writers right from your pocket.

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About Laura Wilkinson

Laura grew up in a Welsh market town and now lives in Brighton with her husband and two boys. As well as writing fiction, she works as an editor for literary consultancy, Cornerstones. She has published short stories in magazines, digital media and anthologies. She writes general fiction as Laura Wilkinson and erotic romance as L. C. Wilkinson. Her first hot romance, All of Me, is published by Xcite, an imprint of Accent Press. Currently, she’s working on a two novels: one is set against the backdrop of the 1984/85 miners’ strike; the other is a romance following a petulant young woman and a man running from his past. What does all her work have in common? Compelling stories, fascinating characters, and ideas that make you think a little. At least she hopes so! Find out more here.  Or follow her on Twitter: @ScorpioScribble. She loves to hear from readers.

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Comments
  1. Thanks so much for having me, Sue. Much appreciated.

  2. Sue says:

    You’re welcome, Laura. I’ve had some great comments on the writing site I posted it in, so hopefullyy you’ll get some downloads!

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