One thing I’ve fought with as a writer is distance. I’m an intensely private person, I don’t like to reveal myself to others. I have the heart of a journalist, which means I want to know others’ stories, I want to suss out what makes them tick, I want to peer into their souls, but unless I know and trust you well, I’ll only give you tiny glimpses into mine. If you spend enough time with me eventually I’ll give you enough glimpses for you to construct a reasonably true picture, but I’ll make you work for it.
And I think one of the reasons why my first real attempt at a novel didn’t work was because despite the intimacy of some of the subject matter, I worried too much about how people I know and who knew me would receive it, and more importantly, I worried about how much I was telling the people who knew — and didn’t know me — about the hidden places of my soul.
With my current WIP I’m consciously trying to, as Ed Tarkington says in this essay, leave some blood on the page. This novel only works if the reader can understand my main character’s predicament, and that can only happen if I slice open a vein, take the reader back to the place and time where I got the inspiration for the story and the personal experience that made the idea hit me with such force that I knew it had to be written down, and knew how I might write it.
There’s a little piece of every novelist in every novel; this one will have more than a little of me in it; even if the main character is not me she is a product of the sum total of my experiences and knowledge. I’d be interested in hearing how other novelists deal with the dilemma of having to bleed over the page while still managing to keep some sort of distance.