Stories of my life

When my publisher, Comma Press, asked me to write a guest blog-post about my new short-story collection, I considered the suggested topics and decided to write about the ways in which I’ve drawn on personal experience in these fictional tales. My novels aren’t remotely autobiographical and yet, in Letters Home, several of the pieces arose directly from – and closely mirror – real events in my life. I was curious to explore why that might be.

Here’s the opening of the blog post:

Like many authors, I’m often asked to what extent my fiction is based on personal experience. Some readers seem unduly preoccupied with finding the writer in the writing; at least, where novelists are concerned. Philip Roth was recently quoted as saying that readers generally assumed his novels were autobiographical, but that when he published a memoir he was accused of making it up.

Perhaps this perception is rooted in the hackneyed creative-writing adage: Write what you know. As if real-life experience trumps all other cards in the fiction-writer’s hand – research, for example, or (whisper it) the imagination. Of course, plenty of writers do draw closely on autobiographical material for their novels, sometimes heavily disguised, sometimes draping only the thinnest of fictional veils over the fact.

I never have. None of my eight novels is even loosely autobiographical and none of my characters is a surrogate me. Let me state, for the record, that I have not taken revenge on my former teachers, been a trafficked sex-worker in Amsterdam, become obsessed with tracking down a panther on Ilkley Moor, woken up one morning to find my soul inside someone else’s body, or been sent to a psychiatric clinic after causing my brother’s death. I don’t even have a brother.

To read the rest of the piece, please click on this link to the Comma Press blog page.

If you’re interested, you can also listen to the audio of me reading excerpts from a couple of the stories in Letters Home at the book’s recent launch event in Bradford Waterstones. Click here to visit Comma’s twitter feed, where the recording can be accessed.

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