Using personal stories in writing: do or don’t?
Of course it is a do. One of my favourite books is Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson which is a reworking of her own childhood within a fictional format as opposed to an outright memoir. What matters is that you are true to the kind of story you wish to tell, regardless of what is the inspiration. I would also say that no writer works in a vacuum as if their books are ‘ex nihilo.’ Whether you mean to or not, you write the kind of story you are either interested in, or have been through in some way. It is all inspired by your personal past and you rework it, sometimes even try to ignore it, but then press it down and reshape it so that it can become unrecognizable from truth but it still has seeds in it. There are some stories I love to read but would never be able to write because I would never be inspired to write them because they come from a different sort of experience to the one I have had. But novels should be about trying to tell some kind of truth – either the one you wish was real or the one that is. And sometimes I think the novels that have impressed me the most and the ones that have really stayed with me as visceral works of honest art are the one that you discover had some grounding in the author’s past. You do look at them in a new light and they seem so much more informed. But this novel is not based on my own personal story in any other way than it is about the interrogation and destruction of the family unit.
Thank you Nelle!
About Legacy of Eden (Goodreads)
“To understand what it meant to be a Hathaway, you’d first have to see Aurelia.”
For generations, Aurelia was the crowning glory of more than three thousand acres of Iowa farmland and golden cornfields. The estate was a monument to matriarch Lavinia Hathaway’s dream to elevate the family name – no matter what relative or stranger she had to destroy in the process. It was a desperation that wrought the downfall of the Hathaways – and the once prosperous farm.
Now the last inhabitant of the decaying old home has died – alone. None of the surviving members of the Hathaway family want anything to do with the farm, the land, or the memories.
Especially Meredith Pincetti. Now living in New York City, for seventeen years Lavinia’s youngest grandchild has tried to forget everything about her family and her past. But with the receipt of a pleading letter, Meredith is again thrust into conflict with the legacy that destroyed her family’s once-great name. Back at Aurelia, Meredith must confront the rise and fall of the Hathaway family… and her own part in their mottled history.
“Our farm was like the world when people still thought it was flat. And when you left it, it was as if you had simply sailed too far and fallen off the surface into the void.”
I tried to read this book but it just wasn’t for me. I adore the cover and I think the premise sounds lovely. Maybe I’ll give it another try in a few months.
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