Dilemmas of a memoir writer
I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I wrote my memoir I was tacitly agreeing that my life would be open to public view. In retrospect, of course, that much is obvious; yet even after publication, the idea of being available in that way took time to get used to: not only my writing but my life became, in some ways, a matter of public interest. An outcome that scarcely occurs to writers of fantasy fiction, say, or historical whodunnits.
Because of the quasi-public nature of my first three books, I try to conduct my life with probity and discretion, and to treat everyone who reads my books with consideration. But the fact remains, readers will get to know a lot about me, while I, absent-minded at best, will probably learn very little about my reader friends. I have difficulty sometimes remembering people’s names – my own, too, so it’s not personal – and in even the most kindly exchanges with readers, I have no idea whether they have one sister or two, unless they choose to share personal details like these with me, or write blog posts about family.
Writers like Elouise, whose blogs I have followed for a few years I admire particularly, I suspect, because she also chooses to share the story of her life and her birth family. And I notice that I tend to gravitate towards other memoir writers whose books I have read. But then, I have always enjoyed reading life stories.
Happily, it rarely occurs to me to notice that the information exchange with my readers is a bit lopsided. In any case, the end point of any memoir already puts that story into a kind of historical context, marking a full stop beyond which life moves ahead steadily. I’m already a different person from that woman who looked out at the world a month ago.
But I do forget, sometimes, that people know more about me than I know about them. And have to remind myself that I don’t need to explain…
Thanks for listening.