September Author Interview Answer #5: How do you felt when you managed to complete a book?

Hello everyone, I hope you have enjoyed reading the forth post in this interview series. This is the continuation of the interview with author Debby G. Kaye and Linda Gray Sexton. Please check their bios out via the links you can see below.

Let’s check out the answers for question #5 from them.

“How do you felt when you managed to complete a book?”

Author #1 D. G. Kaye

After completing my book, besides the feeling of accomplishment, I was very apprehensive about publishing it. I stalled the publication for a few weeks, even after it was ready for print. I had several conversations with my siblings for approval, making sure that they were okay with my publishing the book. At the time, I was scared that my mother might read it and consider having me sued. That thought instilled a new burden of guilt I felt; only this time, it was self-imposed. And yes, my mother was quite capable of doing something like that. Someone did tell her I wrote the book and her response was venomous. Thankfully, nothing ever came of her threats. When I did finally publish my book, it was exhilarating.

Author #2 Linda Sexton
I always feel an immense sense of relief that I have finished a completed work, delighted to have been able to have managed it, and proud.  It is liberating to feel you have told your own story fully and well and not been influenced by outsiders or critics.  In the end, it is pleasing yourself that matters.
Thank you for sharing your opinions. Keep up the good work and we all admire your work so much! So, keep writing!
I’ll be posting the answers to the sixth question next: “What was the best and worst criticism that you have received for your work?”
Share your thoughts and views below.

“How Much of a Memoir Should Be True?” by Linda Gray Sexton

Hello readers! We have decided to introduce authors via guest posts. Writers are good in expressing themselves and it’s worth reading their thoughts and views on issues related to the writing world. We are posting interviews from the Memoirs/Biography genre this month and we have Linda Gray Sexton, the daughter of Anne Sexton sharing her thoughts on “How Much of a Memoir Should Be True?”. We hope you enjoy reading her guest post and we welcome you to share your opinions below.

Linda Gray Sexton

Linda Gray Sexton, author of Bespotted: My Family’s Love Affair with Thirty-Eight Dalmatians

I have no doubt that every part of a memoir should be true.  That is what differentiates it from fiction, a genre in which every word is drawn from the author’s imagination.  And perhaps we also distinguish memoir from autobiography because, as we experience this form of literature today, it is not a simple accounting of facts, but rather a story drawn from one’s emotions and the life they reflect, susceptible to wanderings and flashbacks and other thematic intertwinings.


How does a writer determine what is “true?”  Truth is subjective for us all and we can only tell our own stories with the best sense of integrity we have.  Sometimes the truth can be softened by grace and gratitude and a sense of compassion for all those involved.  Nothing is so hard on family and friends as the personal exposure a memoir can bring when it is published.


In my second memoir, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, a person central to the story took exception to a small detail and asked that I change it in a minor way.  Because I didn’t really “need” it in order to portray that part of my life, I did delete it while the book was still a manuscript.  I didn’t reinvent anything, I just removed one small part of what was, in fact, a tiny bit of my truth.  I felt the compromise was actually no compromise at all.  I also used a pseudonym for this person, as requested, because again I did not feel it mattered in any intrinsic way to my candor or honesty.  I have never changed a place or a date, or consolidated scenes and events.


On the other hand, there was one person who was very dear to me, who did object to many of the aspects of the memoir, feeling misunderstood and angry.  Because I saw no way to soften this without compromising the facts and emotions with which the memoir dealt, I suggested that there are many perspectives from which a story can be told: just as two people can enter the same room from different doors and see that room in entirely different ways, so can two people disagree about what actually occurred.  It was my story and I felt entitled to tell it my way.  I left everything intact and simply dealt with the anger aroused.  Sometimes memoir hurts those involved, but because I believed the book would reach out in an important way to others beyond family and friends, I felt certain enough to continue.


My sons and sister were also extremely affected by Half in Love.  I did something I believe is unusual in the genre: I invited them to come sit with me and talk about how my depression and suicide attempts had made them feel.  I tape-recorded these conversations so that later on, while writing the memoir, I would be able to refer back to them and, if necessary, quote accurately from them.  I did end up quoting verbatim from these sessions, and I also gave them galleys of the book early on, so that they could perhaps be better prepared for what they, or others, would read.  I changed nothing in galley, even after they offered their comments.


With Searching for Mercy Street the situation was also intense.  My mother’s sister and her daughters violently objected to what I had written, in particular with my portrait of their father, believing that what I had written was biased and false. On the op-ed page of the New York Times, they accused me of lying in order to bring myself a wider audience and acquire a warped sort of fame.  I refused to respond either in person or in print.


Because it does not deal with painful family secrets in any profound manner, Bespotted: My Family’s Love Affair with Thirty-Eight Dalmatians aroused no animosity from anyone.  For this, I am grateful.  It was hard enough to cope with the first two times around.


In the end, a memoir is your own story, written from your own perspective, and ultimately is nothing more than that.  When family members or friends contest what I have created, I simply suggest to them that they write a book from their viewpoint. Ultimately, I believe everyone is entitled to his own truths, including the author, whether others like it—or not.

September Author Interview: Author #2: Linda Gray Sexton

Linda Gray Sexton

Linda Gray Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1953.   She is the daughter of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Anne Sexton.  Linda graduated from Harvard in 1975 with a degree in literature.  After the death of her mother, she became the literary executor of the estate at twenty-one years old and edited several posthumous books of her mother’s poetry, as well as publishing Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters and Between Two Worlds: Young Women in Crisis.  She has written four novels, Rituals, Mirror ImagesPoints of Light and Private Acts. Points of Light was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame Special for CBS television and was translated into thirteen languages.   Her first memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was optioned by Miramax Films.

Sexton’s second memoir, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide was published in 2011 and takes a hard look at her struggle with her own mental illness and the legacy of suicide left to her by her mother and her mother’s family.

After the serious subjects about which she wrote so candidly in Half in Lovetime for a change had come—and with it, a different perspective  Linda began to delve into the joyful aspects of her childhood, specifically the time spent with the family Dalmatians.  Her family’s love affair with Dalmatians perhaps took root in the fact that these animals always buoyed her mother’s mood and alleviated her depression.  Thus they were cherished for their ability to act as something akin to today’s “therapy dogs,” as well as being beloved companions.

Bespotted: My Family’s Love Affair With Thirty-Eight Dalmatians  is a breakthrough book for Linda—a new piece of her literary family’s history, as well as a new look into her own life as an adult.  This memoir also looks into the ways dogs influence our lives, and how they infuse every day with companionship, loyalty and love.  It speaks to the growth of its author into a different phase of her life—one dominated by joy—and uniquely examines how one family, and one breed, found their way through life together.

Linda is now at work on a fifth novel, and continues to live in California with her husband and their three Dalmatians: Breeze and her two sons Cody and Mac, whom Linda and her husband bred in 2011 and 2012.  Mac, now her forty-second Dal, is the model for the jacket photo of Bespotted.

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