February 25, 2014

Fearing the Family and Friends

Dear M,

I think one of the drawbacks of people reading our books is that they try to see us behind the stories. We, as story-tellers, try to narrate different stories from different perspectives, we try to place ourselves in the shoes of others. But when our friends read the stories, they (some of them at least) imagine that we are the protagonists. That it has to be our story. That there must be an element of truth in it. I have been asked about a couple of my stories, if such a thing has happened to me. They never actually believed it when I said it wasn't my story, that it was in no way related to me.

It is a very difficult situation, if you ask me. Imagine our story exploring forbidden topics. What conclusions are the reader-friends of ours going to arrive at? We have a major crisis arising from misunderstanding heading for our doors. I have often wondered if I can get away with an anonymously written book. (I don't fancy wasting my life explaining my stories to others.) But the problem would be marketing it. How can an anonymous author promote his/her work on the Internet? This isn't like the olden times when the publisher took care of all the sales and marketing.

We should, as they say, have a thick skin if we want to write about sensitive topics that could raise an eyebrow or so - within the family. Yeah, we can face the nation's wrath, but the family's floors we fear to tread. At some point, though, we have to decide whether the need to write would triumph over the fear of a few scowls or raised eyebrows.

I remember reading that Rushdie's educated father was annoyed at the way the protagonist's father was represented in Midnight's Children, but his mother was okay with it; everyone knew the story was loosely based on Rushdie's own life.


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  1. Thick skin - there you go, smiles and also it takes a bit of inner struggle for a writer to set himself free from the characters and events - even if it is based on reality.