Yet there are tantalising elements in any writer’s life and work that has the reader sometimes searching for connections. This was done, at times painfully so, in the three volume biography of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry. I made it through the first two – 1300 pages of it – only to find myself preferring the novelist’s original cadences and narratives over the sometimes achingly evoked pseudo-psychological reasons for Greene’s works and words.
I was perplexed to receive feedback from readers about my novel, Harbour Glimpses, which seemed to mistake the ‘I’ of the narrator, Michael Keogh, for the writer. One said things about my father and his relationship with me. Another commented on my schooling. I found myself haplessly trying to explain that the character was in a Protestant school on the North Shore of Sydney and that I went to a full-faith Roman Catholic establishment in the western suburbs. If you want to know about my father Ken Scully, I told them, there is, after all, Three Angry Men, which is a spiritual memoir of him.
I have mentioned elsewhere that my latest effort has been the slowest to deliver – my first outline in my notebook was thirteen years ago and, to my surprise, the main plot outline has varied little from my initial thoughts. Crafting the intricacies of how to tell the story has taken longer than initial expectations might have suggested. I have used the device of placing my professional self into the narrative as a character. No doubt that will cause me all sorts of trouble.
The geographical trajectory of the protagonist (who is not me, I hasten to add needlessly) is from Australia via rural Dorset to inner London and ends in Surrey. At this stage – I have put the work aside for revision later – it is a mix of real places and fictional ones. An early recast saw one identifiable locale renamed to eliminate confusion between actuality and artifice. It was perhaps too close for comfort.
The character finds himself finally in a facility for retired clergy – though he is a lay professed brother of a religious community. Part of the plot requires the Warden of this establishment to let me, as 'editor' (thanks to Søren Kierkegaard and others for this device), know of events in the character’s life.
The line between art and reality is arguably permeable. Yet I have a new, unforeseen at the time of gestation, dilemma. The residential college I drew on for the book recently appointed a new Warden. It happens to be me. What I do, or don’t do, with all this is one of those situations is not one likely to be addressed in the plethora of courses, websites, and chat rooms that cater for those who would like to be published. I say ‘not likely’ but I really cannot say that with any authority as I tend to avoid them.
That probably comes from my habit of writing about what I know.