Friday, February 07, 2014

How Autobiographical Can It Be/Should It Be/Is It?

How Autobiographical Can It Be/Should It Be/Is It? Jenny Andersen

Wallpaper With Roses is a book just out from TWRP. Is it autobiographical? Yes. No. Not really. It’s about a woman and her aging mother. Well, I’m a woman and my mother got old. Those two facts are commonalities between my life and the book. They don’t make the story an autobiography.

I’m not Sarah, the heroine in the book, not by a long shot. Was my mother Hannah? She had many of Hannah’s more wonderful characteristics, but no.

Yes, the book is rooted in the feelings we all have as our parents age. But as new characters walked on stage, new ideas grew and a whole new story coalesced around Sarah and Hannah. Sarah, like all good heroines, had to find her way through a minefield of problems.

What Sarah and I share is a deep love for our mothers, and the helpless anger at their aging. The rules change when a parent reaches an advanced age and it’s not fun for anyone. Sarah felt the things I felt during those hard years—fear, hope, anger, resentment, love, terror, helplessness.

These emotions translated from real life to the page. Actual incidents—not so much. A friend’s parent sideswiped the garbage can and she thought he should give up driving. He didn’t. In the book, Hannah T-boned the local chief of police and lost her license (boy, was she ticked), resulting in much more conflict than a bent trash can. The real incident served as inspiration for a fictional scene, and as Sarah and Hannah acted and reacted to these happenings, as I played the writer’s game of What If, new incidents evolved and spun onto the page.

So now there is the book—inspired by life, morphed into a story by time and effort, but Sarah’s story, not mine. Is it a sad book, a depressing book? No. Wallpaper With Roses is a story of love in its many guises. Bad things happen, sad things happen, but Sarah lives a story of courage and hope and family and love. As friends and strangers enter her life with all their problems and joys, Sarah learns love has a very sustaining quality and family is a matter of the heart. I’m not Sarah, Sarah isn’t me, but in that respect I choose to emulate her.

Jenny Andersen

Wallpaper with Roses by Jenny AndersenWallpaper with Roses 


Liz Flaherty said...

One to add to my TBR on my Kindle. (I'm never going to get finished reading RITA entries...) I love the concept and the cover!

DMS said...

This sounds like a book that will be easy to connect to. It was interesting to learn more about the origins of the story and the way real life and fiction were intertwined. :) Thanks for sharing.