I’m about to release my second memoir out into the wild. Am I completely mad? Well…now that you mention it. I’ve also published two YA novels so I can make some comparisons. I love writing. It’s therapeutic, cathartic, meditative, enlightening, enjoyable, torturous and sometimes even redemptive.
My first memoir was a coming-of-age tale of a wild and willful girl finding her place in the world. Although some of the subject matter was a bit risque (see sex, drugs and rock n roll) it was all relatively painless musings about my youth. We all went a bit off the rails during adolescence, didn’t we? Well. if you didn’t, you should have!!! Misbehaving, experimenting with illicit substances and bodies is a fairly mundane rite of passage and you just cross your fingers and hope that you come out the other side relatively emotionally intact…leaving broken hearts, empty bottles and frazzled, frantic parents in your frothy wake.
But this memoir feels different. I feel like, where I opened a window in my first book, One Way or Another, I’ve opened the front door, wide, with Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood. It’s kinda raw. It makes no literary pretentions, it offers no answers to the big questions and it isn’t a cautionary tale, nor one of triumph. It’s just my no-frills, hold-the-bullshit, nuts and bolts recollection of the nineties. I’d done the eighties thing in the rock memoir, big hair, shoulder pads and that severe line of rouge on the cheek sort of era and all that. Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood, let’s call it MMM, is the gritty tale of my decade of grunge. Seems my life rolls out against the musical background of the day….cos in the era of hip hop my frickin’ hip gave out. I don’t know what genre this decade of music fits into…complete leftover-scum-on-the-dog-bowl nonsense if my teenagers’ music is anything to go by.
Back to books. Memoir. Memoir is very much like sawing open your breastbone to sift through your innards looking for something that might look interesting on the page. I’ve recovered from my first one and waded on through comparatively easy rides through fiction where I just made up stuff about fictional character’s lives. That’s the stuff of dreams. Memoirs tend to be like living in a nightmare while you are writing/editing them. It’s so hard to relive your life and see all the places and situations where you should have or could have done better. Oh to be able to edit and proofread your actual life!! But alas you are stuck with your past. It is what it is. The trick in life is not to let it define you. It may be baggage but we can shed it, drop it by the wayside or onto a bonfire any time we like. But you can also just keep that baggage close by (in my case in a pile of ancient diaries and journals) and you can sometimes revisit and learn from both your mistakes and your successes.
Getting a bad review for a memoir hurts way more than one for a work of fiction for obvious reasons. Hexenhaus, my YA novel, was fiction, made up of fairy-tale forests and villainous villains and witch-hunts and hedgehogs….if someone didn’t like it, I didn’t take it personally. The gratuitous torture scenes weren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But a memoir is your thick, warm blood inked out onto the parchment of your own skin. It’s not about clever metaphors or snazzy literary devices. It’s just your head on the plate, your terrified eyes looking right at the reader, saying, ‘This is me. I am sharing me with you. Be gentle with me.’
It’s visceral stuff.
In the nineties, I was poor, I was mad and I was a single mother. Quite the recipe for disaster. And yet my story isn’t unusual. I’m not a famous person penning my gallant life story, I didn’t circumnavigate the world in a bathtub, I wasn’t the first woman to discover the invisible hairy marmoset lizard in the Galapagos. I just lived hand-to-mouth, making ends meet, wrestling the demon of depression, running amok on girls’ weekends, cask wine and crackers, Prosac and pizza….I still managed to drag home a famous muso but because it was the grunge era there were cockroaches all over the walls!! You’ll have to buy the book to discover if this said muso was from Cold Chisel or The Wiggles. There’s a scintillating hook right there for you. Yes, you have to buy it now!!!
Anyway….I will gnaw my fingernails to the knuckles as I wait to see how my pound of flesh in a book is received by the blood-thirsty, book-reading masses, shivering in me boots, hoping I sell enough to get my hip fixed (just kidding)! And I am grateful to have the distraction of editing for my new YA novel in front of me begging for attention. It’s due out later in the year. Not one drop of my own blood was spilled in the writing of that one!!!
Madness, Mayhem and Madness. Out in bookstores on July 2nd this year (2018)