Sunday, June 24, 2018

Real life impinging on fiction

Over the last few months I've been typing up old diaries from the 1990s - there were 700 pages of them, and I've only typed up just over 200 so far.

In the entry I copied today I was remembering an event that happened way back in 1954, when my grandfather suddenly died one Saturday. I'm guessing he had a heart attack, although I don't know this, since I was only nine at the time.

My mother and I lived with my grandparents, because she and my father had split up. He stayed behind in Australia while we came back to the family home in New Zealand.

My grandfather was a real father to me; I'd never really known my own father, as we'd left Australia when I was three, and I think he was often away playing at Chess Championships anyway.

Courtesy Pixabay
It struck me today that my three children's fantasies have some odd connections to these mothers and fathers and grandparents.

The mother and father in Grimhilda! have become remote and have little time for their one and only child, Toby. (In the original opera version of Grimhilda! the mother was much the same sort of character, but the father barely appeared at all. He made a shadowy entrance for literally a few seconds, said one brief line, and was never seen again.)

There's no sign of the mother in The Mumbersons and the Blood Secret until right at the end, though she's talked about early in the piece. Billy, the hero of the story, lives at home with his Dad.

In The Disenchanted Wizard Della also lives alone with her father. (There was to have been a mother, but she got cut out in an early draft.)

Now I don't have anything against mothers: my own mother was great, and in a kind of reversal, lived with us and our children for around 21 years, until she died. So I'm not sure why the mothers are missing for the most part in these stories.

The two very different fathers are perhaps fictional attempts to present the sort of father who might have been useful to me if he'd stuck around, though neither of them is the heroic type.

But what's more interesting is the older male character who appears in two of the three books. In the first he actually is Billy's grandfather, and though he's a nothing like my own grandfather, he does seem more outgoing than Billy's own dad, and plays a bigger part in the story.

Della, on the other hand, doesn't have any actual grandfather, but she has an older man who becomes a kind of grandfather to her. This is Mr Crinch, who when he first appears seems to have lost his marbles. This isn't entirely the case, but without him, Della and her cousin, Harold, would never make it back home again.

We all draw on real people to put into our stories, sometimes consciously, but more often unconsciously. While I don't necessarily think of members of my family when I'm writing my books (or even when I read them after they're completed), it seems that these people make their way into the stories anyway, without my noticing it. Certainly some of the emotions I experienced as a result of having known them have forced their way into the books. Hopefully they resonate with my readers.

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