Some of us seldom think about the scars, or have processed so much of the hurt that caused them that they barely register anymore, but they’re there. Perhaps this is why, when writing the character of Poppy, a child who is neglected and abused by her mother, I found that much of the emotional resonance was quite easy to access from my own childhood experience.
Whilst I was fortunate enough never to go through anything like the awfulness that little Poppy endures at the beginning of Bone Meal for Roses, my own relationship with my mother was destructive and fraught with difficulty, and so I was able dip into my past and access Poppy’s feelings of helplessness with little effort.
The way I see it, the mother-child relationship is fundamental to how we all develop our sense of place in the world. For most of us, it’s our first relationship with another being, and it colours the glass through which we see life, and indeed, ourselves. If that glass is cloudy, marred by scratches, discoloured or stained, it’s bound to affect us profoundly, and possibly define the adults we become. Abuse, of any kind, cements powerful filters onto that glass and distorts the view we have of ourselves.
Bone Meal for Roses is a story about becoming a strong, whole person in spite of childhood trauma. It’s about the redemptive possibilities that are revealed when we start, first to even see that there is a grimy pane, and then begin to smash through it. Because of this, perhaps it’s fitting that I was able to tap into my own memories in order to write it.
Writing a novel is (at least for me) a process congested with doubts and fears, many of them rooted in that wordless, childhood time when the scars began to form, and so, I have to face them down in order to do get the work done. As a consequence, finishing a manuscript is hugely empowering. A small, inner war has been fought and won, and perhaps, another tiny patch of glass has been polished clean.
One day, if I keep on writing, if I keep on committing to the craft of creating something tangible out of the amorphous landscape of my thoughts and ideas, I might just smash through it…