Tag Archives: Woody Allen

Which Author Would You Be?

Woody Allen said that: My One Regret In Life Is That I Am Not Someone Else.” 

Assuming reincarnation and time travel are possible, which author would you come back as?

They can be dead or still alive…and feel free to change gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

This fantasy question is rather different to being asked which authors you’d have to dinner. For instance, when I think of my writing heroes, irrespective of their talent, some of them had unhappy lives. I might still risk it, as I’d be fascinated to see how their creative process worked.

My choices would be:

Of the dead

* Rumi: the Persian poet, revered for his love poetry. I wonder what his love life was like. He had a decent innings surviving until the age of 66…impressive for the 13th-century.

Image result for rumi

* Guy de Maupassant: A great short story writer, who rubbed shoulders with such luminaries as Alexandre Dumas, Gustav Flaubert, Ivan Turgenev and Émile Zola. Sadly, his own story was short, for he died of VD in an asylum at the age of 42.

Image result for Guy de Maupassant

* Richard Brautigan: A writer of bizarre comedic stories, a real maverick, but dead by his own hand at the age of 49, his body not found for a month.

Image result for Richard Brautigan

Perhaps I should change gender. French writers Anaïs Nin and Colette led fascinating and erotic lives, surviving until the ages of 73 & 81.

Image result for Anaïs Nin

Image result for Colette

Among the Living

Shape-shifting into the careers of living authors would be interesting. I note that all the writers I’ve chosen have retained the common touch, not abandoning their humble roots.

* Larry McMurtry: his output is impressive, with his books adapted into respectful movies and television series. Lonesome Dove is a great Western. He’s a used book-store owner & cat lover.

Image result for Larry McMurtry

* Dennis Lehane: brilliant novels that win awards and are turned into decent films, which is something of a miracle. Also wrote episodes of The Wire.

Image result for Dennis Lehane

* James Lee Burke: an illustrious writing career, and he’s still actively publishing in his 80s. I like how he stays true to his characters, writing series of novels about them. Daughter Alafair is also a best-selling crime author.

Image result for James Lee Burke

* Alice Hoffman: my favourite author of Magical Realism, which she inserts seamlessly into her tales of characters struggling against the odds. Great at showing how what someone considers to be magic provides them with the courage to endure.

Image result for Alice Hoffman

Who would you be? One of the Brontës? Charles Dickens? William Shakespeare?

Or someone contemporary and still living, such as Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood or Paul Auster?

Just think of the fun you could have getting these famous authors to write something radically different!

Turning Suffering Into Writing

It’s cynical of me to say so, but there’s money in misery. But, suffering is a part of life. As Woody Allen lamented:

Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering—and it’s all over much too soon.

I’ll never be a fan of misery memoirs, though perhaps I should write one, as this genre is said to be the most rapidly expanding. Many stories of suffering have been faked, though I was impressed by Jung Chang’s Wild Swans.

Wild Swans, English edition cover

I write in the crime genre, which enables me to tackle some contentious issues in society, as well as the vile behaviour of criminals and the deplorable attitude of the public who get a thrill out of being gawkers and trolls.

I’ve written about murder, kidnapping, poisoning, sexual assault, blackmail, prostitution, drug dealing, incest, violent assault, genocide and human trafficking. Some of these crimes were prompted by unpleasant human events, such as mental illness, bereavement, suicide and assisted suicide, long-term unemployment and debt, cancer, PTSD, and homelessness.

These are things that have happened to my friends, acquaintances and family members, though I never write so closely that they could be identified. Some crimes, accidents and tragedies are stuff I remembered from the news, going right back to my boyhood. For instance, my last novel includes a corpse being found incompletely embalmed, which is a newspaper story I recalled from the 1960s where a man attempted to preserve his wife in this way, living with her body for thirty years. This only came to light, after he died alone and his putrefying remains alerted neighbours that something was amiss. He was laying on the bed next to his beloved.

I also draw on first-hand knowledge, including violent confrontations and fights, (where I was sometimes on the losing end), meetings with career criminals and racists, a near-death experience, finding a corpse, being burgled and the ramifications of mistaken identity. I didn’t know it at the time, but my suffering has provided me with the perfect material for writing novels! 

It’s said To write what you know about’, but I have no way of telling whether the passages based on what actually happened to me read truer than those created by my imagination. In rough times, I certainly thought “This will make a great story one day,” which only goes to prove that my writerly brain was observant, even while dormant.

Have you ever written anything based on personal suffering, or of sadness that happened to those close to you?

Are there any books that make you howl with anguish? I recently read Plainsongwritten by Kent Haruf, in which an abandoned pregnant girl is taken in by two farmer brothers. The kindness of these simple souls to her made me shed a tear—fortunately, I was on the loo at the time—so tissue paper was handy!

Image result for plainsong haruf

What do you think of misery lit?

Is there anything that you wouldn’t write about? I tackled paedophilia in my latest novel, The Dead Need Nobody, which made me uncomfortable, though I wrote about this most hideous of crimes partly as a plot device, to have my protagonist lose control of his temper to batter the offender so severely that he dies, meaning he gets suspended from duty. He was fighting for his life, stabbed with a sword and bleeding out, meaning he’s in a coma at the end. Quite what his fate will be in Book 6, I’ve yet to decide.

If reading can be therapeutic, I guess that writing about the dark side of life could be healing.