When writing my first novelEden Burning I was fascinated by ‘secrets’ – the hidden lives of others which may or may not ever be known – their secrets - many of which are taken to the grave. I remember my mother, in the middle of a riot, pointing down the road at a neighbour, standing outside his shop and making a comment about his life. As a teenager, I wondered, ‘How do you know that is the truth?’ We’re all filtering the world into a lie. Of course I didn’t know about psychology then and wouldn’t have used those words, but I had an intuition that nothing that we thought or felt was ‘real’. It was invented.
I’ve changed my mind since then and am of the opinion that there can be a reality to what we think and feel. Our thinking can manifest itself as wisdom and our feelings as compassion. They are both real. But they are not ‘me’. I can’t take the credit for them. They are universal emergent possibilities within the human condition. They are as real as breathing. They are not a secret but a truth expressed in different ways by different individuals.
In writing, I create the fiction – the lie if you like – but I attempt to touch what is real. It’s a little nugget of gold buried within the story. As I am writing, I don’t know where it is. I know that it will appear but I don’t know exactly where or when.
So, I begin with secrets which may lead to the truth. In The Secret Wound the hiddenness of past secrets are eventually revealed and in this happening – the world is changed. I think for the better. We get in contact with what is real. That can only be good.
I was strongly reminded of this last week when my friend, Lilo from Denmark died. Lilo arrived in Mallorca about the same time Martin and I did – 15 years ago. We met within our first week. We walked around Lake Cuber at mid-night when there was a full moon and Lilo shared her thoughts that UFOs had been seen in the area. I stifled a laugh but looking at the craggy mountains, highlighted by the silvery moonlight and the sandy earth around the lake, I could imagine why someone might have thought that a possibility. It was a perfect site for a moon landing – so why not an alien landing?
Lilo was an Existentialist. There was no life after death. Life had no meaning or value other than what you chose to give it. Lilo chose the pleasure and joy of life as meaning. She loved Mallorca with its sun, the beauty of Nature – to be able to walk and swim.
Yet Lilo had her secrets. When I did a talk in the Irish Pub in Soller to introduce the locals to Eden Burning, Lilo was there. When it came to question and answer time, she asked,
“So this novel is about forgiveness?”
“Yes. That is an important theme. Not the only theme but an important theme.”
“I don’t believe in forgiveness.”
I knew then that there was a secret in Lilo’s life which she had not revealed in 15 years. When she died, her friends uncovered her art. In Denmark she was an artist and a sculptor. When she came to Mallorca, she did not talk about her art or exhibit it. Yet, it was magnificent. When we had previously talked about art, she said, ‘All artists are mad.”
So there is a secret in Lilo’s life which has gone to the grave, but it doesn’t mean to say that it will not surface in a novel … Watch this space.
Meanwhile in The Secret Wound the secrets of the past are unfolded and you know (or do you?) what is real in the lives of Gurtha, Nuala, Paddy, Cornelia, Barry, Stephanie, Todd and Angelina.