Family secrets fascinate me – they are at the heart of my writing.
Families conceal things, or don’t mention them; things that peek out from often-told stories but are never questioned. Like all writers, I’m a magpie and I grasp these treasures whenever I find them.
Secrets can be mundane: a birth certificate revealing that a parent has lied about their age, or even
Families are different from other groups. They’re home to our dearest loves and deepest resentments – and yet they need to operate on an everyday level. Everyone needs to be fed, clothed and sent off to school or work; and to rest, mooch around together and sleep.
We are not our outward-facing selves in our families. They see us grumpy or distracted, picking our noses, grunting responses: the real people who emerge when we’ve shut the door on the outside world.
Things go unsaid in families, both good and bad. I read an article by a man who decided not to save a eulogy for his father’s funeral, but to tell him his feelings for him while he was alive. He did so. It was awkward. He wasn’t sure if he regretted it or not.
There is a reason we don’t do these things. Huge feelings and shocking revelations might threaten the everyday functioning that makes up family life. If someone says something profound at a family gathering, we often shrug or squirm with discomfort.
In Unspeakable Things my heroine, Sarah, knows nothing about her mother, who died when she was four. Pregnant and newly inquisitive, she visits the abandoned family home with her husband, who asks why her father moved them away.
‘I don’t know. He didn’t say.’ Dad had not talked about any of it. She didn’t even remember looking at old photographs with him, and wondered now why they had never pestered him about their dead mother, their abandoned first home. But during his life it had seemed unthinkable. Did they hesitate to test that resolute strength of his, in case it crumpled?
There are terrible things in families, and as a writer of dark fiction, I dig them out. Secrets concealed, and secrets discovered form the darkness behind the suspense.
But there are wonderful things in families too – things we don’t talk about either. My second novel, The Year of the Ghost, delves into secrets and lies, but it’s a love song to family as well.
Sophie Kersey's website is https://sophiekerseyauthor.com
Unspeakable Things is available through Amazon, and there is a Kindle edition. http://amzn.to/2FeA6l0