I am delighted today to welcome into Kit’s Library author ALISON KNIGHT to talk about her new novel being published later this month. Over to you, Alison…
When you’re the only one who can tell this story …
Hello, I’m Alison Knight. Thank you, Kit, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. It’s so good, connecting with you again in these interesting times!
You invited me to talk about my new book, Mine, which will be published by Darkstroke Books on 25th November. This date is very special to me – it would have been my mother’s 90th birthday, and the reason I wrote Mine was to tell her story. Here’s the blurb for the book:
MINE by Alison Knight
“What’s mine, I keep.”
Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side.
Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon provides a dangerous distraction.
Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinary path that could destroy them all?
Mine – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.
Mine is based on real events that happened in my family in the late 1960s. I’m the only person left who can tell this story, and I wanted to do it for a number of reasons:
First, my memories of that time are those of a young child, so I wasn’t aware of a lot of things that were going on amongst the adults in my world. By writing Mine as a novel and using my imagination to put myself into the shoes and heads of the various people involved, I was able to gain a better understanding, from an adult’s perspective, of what drove these ordinary people into an extraordinary situation. It was excellent therapy!
Second, although I knew the basic facts, a lot of information about what really happened is now lost. So I used a combination of memory, research and imagination to try to work out what might have happened. I soon became aware that the culture of the time played a large part in the motivations of each of the players in this drama. If the same situation arose today, the outcome would be very, very different.
Third, the basic facts of what happened don’t give the whole picture. I wanted my children and grandchildren to see beyond the bare facts and to get to know the individuals involved. By writing them as characters in my novel, I hope I’m presenting them as people that readers will care about.
Finally, I wanted it to be their story, not mine. For the past fifty years, people have suggested I write this story, assuming that I would tell it all from my perspective. But, although I was there, it isn’t about me. I was just an innocent bystander. My own story is still ongoing and I don’t have any desire to write it beyond what I post on social media. The important thing for me was to give those who are no longer here a voice. I hope I’ve done them justice.
What’s the story?
It took me a long, long time to decide how to structure this story. It took even longer to get it right. I started by trying to tell it from several points of view, including my own, childish perspective, over a long period of time. The end result was an enormous manuscript of over 140,000 words! Eventually, I cut out all but three points of view and focussed on just one year. This reduced it to its present length of 118,000 – still a good-sized book, but not the epic length of the original version. Maybe one day I’ll use the 20,000-plus out-takes – mainly charting mine and my sister’s points of view – to write another story.
Writing about your family can raise lots of issues
I was also aware that, coming from a large, extended family, there are lots of people still around today who remember what happened back in the sixties and they will have different perspectives on it. Have you ever listened to witnesses describing a crime or an accident they’ve seen? It’s common for people who watched the same incident to have completely different recollections of it. They each have their own truth.
I had to balance telling the truth as I saw it against accepting that this wouldn’t be same truth that others held in their memories. I have been conscious that some of the scenes I have written may cause some distress to my relatives. The last thing I want to do is upset anyone, but I also need to tell the story – and my truth – as clearly and as faithfully as I can.
Writing a story based on real events can also cause problems for agents and publishers. I lost count of the number who asked me to change the ending, or make it more like this or that. As an author, I’ve been used to making changes to my stories before publication and in most cases I am happy to do so as they often make for a better story. But with Mine, I didn’t feel I could change the events or the essence of the characters because that would be a betrayal of the people who had lived this story. So I was relieved to find that my publisher, Darkstroke, was happy to maintain the spirit of the story as I wrote it.
Lots of tears and laughter
Reliving those times brought a lot of tears as well as laughter to the surface. The more I wrote, the more I remembered and I hope I’ve created something that will allow my children to see me and my family as we were then.
Writing Mine has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m glad I did and I think it’s my best work so far. It took me back to a very happy time and reminded me of how, for all its ups and down, I really have been blessed throughout my life.
Award-winning author of My Name is Leon, Kit de Waal, said this about Mine:
“A heart breaking account of love and loss told by a great storyteller. Alison takes you into the heart of the tragedy with compassion, wit and even humour. A beautiful story.”
BUY LINK – Mine is available for pre-order now: mybook.to/mineknight
INVITATION TO AN ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH: On Saturday 28th November 2020, Alison will be joining four other authors for a joint event via Zoom called Darkstroke Defined: The five writers will talk about their new books, read extracts and answer questions. For your free ticket, go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/darkstroke-defined-tickets-125793372363
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY – ALISON KNIGHT
Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.
In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.
Alison co-manages Imagine Creative Writing with author Jenny Kane. She teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats for writers as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS – ALISON KNIGHT
@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter
Thank you, Alison. The book sounds absolutely fascinating and I have already ordered my copy. Am looking forward to reading it. Take care, my friend, and hopefully when this awful year is over we may have the opportunity to catch up in person. It’s been too long!
Don’t forget, if you’d like to write a Guest Post for Kit’s Library on any aspect of writing, books, reading, blog tours or book releases etc, please contact me. I would love to hear from you.
A great thought provoking post, thank you ladies. Wishing you every success with the book Alison, looking forward to reading…
Thanks for stopping by, Jo. Alison’s story is certainly an interesting one.
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Alison, such a lovely post. It rang bells because there have been children in my own extended family who had to give up their children in the 1940s and 1950s and I know girls in the late 1960s who were in the same predicament. Dreadful dilemma. It is hard to imagine what they went through. Writing a novel which is both fact and fiction is a dangerous path, I know when Christina and I were writing Only One Woman we had to tread carefully as many people might have assumed it was about them in parts, it is not. But people get het-up and don’t stop to think and to realise the whole world doesn’t know them. I wish you much success. I will tweet for you. xx Thanks Kit, such a fab post. Congrats. Ladies xx
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Glad you enjoyed, Jane. Alison certainly has a most interesting story to tell. It’s hard when you are writing about real life but this is one that definitely needed telling. And thanks for retweets etc. xx
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I know, I have done it. The fall-out from family can be devastating. It really was fascinating and I am happy to share,xx