I was left wondering, the other day, whether there was anything that I wouldn’t write about.
I have been pondering the question ever since, and I think the honest answer is still, “I don’t know.”
Somebody once said that writers are paid to lie. I contest that writers are paid to tell the truth, but when it comes to writing about something that might be personal, or exploiting a situation or some hard-earned verity, are writers bound by some moral code?
Must we plunder our own hidden depths and those of our loved ones to really get close to a universal truth?
Still, I say, “I do not know.”
I do know, though, where my interest in gross criminal psychology comes from, and I have certainly exploited my reading on the subject in my novel “Naming Names”. When asked, I did tell the story of how this book came to be, and when I was asked in a public setting I told it again. It’s a good and interesting story.
Would I write about my family and their experiences? Would I rake around in my sister’s love life? Would I dig up memories of my daughters as small children? Would I recreate scenes from family weddings and funerals?
I doubt it.
The autobiographical doesn’t interest me very much. I want to try to create something new, not rehash reality. That is not to say that I wouldn’t lift a detail here or there if it happened to resonate. That is not to say that I wouldn’t try to recreate the smell of a hospital room or the atmosphere of a funeral parlour from some small corner of my life.
Many experiences are broadly universal and the truths of storytelling should be too. The hitch in the voice of a crying child, the scent of a lover's throat, the smell of pub toilets in the 80s are all memories that come from somewhere intensely personal to me, but, in writing them honestly, I get to evoke something in the reader... If I’m at the top of my game.