What Mum said about my book
A few posts ago, I mentioned sending my book to my parents to read…. and wondering about their reaction since they’re in it.
Mum & Dad are two beautiful creatures who kind of go through life in the shadows. Mum reads a lot of murders, mysteries and psychological thrillers: Patricia Cornwell, Nikki French, Jodi Picoult, Agatha Christie, P.D. James to name a few. Dad listens to symphonies, goes to classical concerts, subtitled arty films, to the library to e-mail us, reads less now, but used to read pretty much anything quirky that crossed his path. I don’t want to divulge ages here but they both remember the Great Depression of the 1930s because it was their childhood.
When Mum rang a week after receiving the manuscript and said, ‘What do you mean on the last pages here?’ my heart sunk because I thought she hated how the Mum (her) is portrayed in the book…. there’s a thing in there that Mum does which is use humour to deflect Life’s Evils and Wrongs and it’s perfectly sweet and innocent but also ridiculous and unhelpful and messed up. In that moment of Mum asking me ‘What do you mean here?’ I crumbled because somehow pleasing Mum is the bedrock of my personality and the thought of displeasing her makes me crumple into sludge. Yeah, I’ve seen a therapist about this, I’ve got some perspective and have (hopefully) moved past it, but there’s that flash of ‘She disapproves = I’m going to die’. It’s quite a dark flash. I don’t know if other writers out there have this, where there is one person in the world whose opinion can dismember you?
Turns out, she doesn’t mean how the Mum is portrayed. She said that had to be convincing and well-rounded and it was (adding that I got her wrong a bit, but that’s to be expected, she has the inside view on her, the rest of the world has the outside view). She was talking about how I portrayed myself in the end of the book. And she was completely right, I was doing something that negated pretty much everything plotwise that had taken place and reduced it to a self-condemnation. Which was not a good thing when in well-written books the goal is to show transformation of the protagonist. That’s what I needed to show in my book, at any rate. Plus NOT blame the mother like so many books do. Plus NOT use the page as therapy like so many books do.
Mum was right and I rewrote the ending – again. She had a really positive reaction to the whole thing, which makes me happy and feel like she’s behind it. She said it was as gripping as one of her murders. That is huge praise.
I didn’t write it to seek her approval or to ‘tell her a few things’ or to shock her into noticing some stuff. By now I can and do ring her up and tell her a plenty of things, I don’t need to spend two years writing it in some veiled way!
I wrote it to bring a/my particular story to a world of readers who might just feel the same way as I did. I wrote it because she herself has felt some of the things I felt at that time. I wrote it cos life’s short. And I just had to and it felt right.
Now I’ll wait to hear if Dad gets through it…. 🙂