Climbing the Karkonosze mountains in Silesia
I am a Scottish writer of mixed Celtic/Germanic ancestry. I write novels, short stories, poetry, and creative non-fiction; some inspired by the people and landscapes of the West of Scotland and others engaged with more international themes.
Most of my writing is a blend of fact and fiction which was something that used to concern me in two ways. In my fiction I felt that it was fraudulent when I relied heavily on personal experience and memory, that I somehow wasn’t being fully creative or imaginative; and in my non-fiction I agonised over accuracy: was that what actually happened, did that person really say that or am I slanting and skewing the whole thing to give it shape?
Now, I just accept that all literary genres are mongrel forms and any act of memory, being highly selective, is fiction to some degree. The art, to me, is in the shaping: giving form to what is mined from the imagination or from memory. I love writers like Christopher Isherwood, Jean Rhys, Saul Bellow, Jessie Kesson, John McGahern and Bernard Mac Laverty, who often write close to their own personal experience and produce work which could be described as ‘lightly fictionalised’. Bernard Mac Laverty, in his website guestbook responses, is refreshingly open about what is true in his stories, confessing that incidents and characters were real and almost exactly as he described.
When it comes to character these writers are also in a league of their own. They never create identikits, or what I call Lego characters, that are constructed piecemeal from different characteristics which never really convince. Because so many of their characters have real-life antecedents they are conceived whole, and their traits and foibles illuminate deep character and are never just the list of surface tics that constitutes character in a lot of modern fiction.