Today’s interview is with Peter Gajdics, author of The Inheritance of Shame, one of the books that made my ‘Top 5 Memoirs of 2017’ list. Peter’s book is more than timely given what’s going on in the world today, and his answers to my questions awed and inspired me.
I was completely enthralled by your memoir—not only the subject matter, but the way it was so beautifully written. Can you tell me a little about the process of writing the book? Did you share it in workshops as it was being written, or did you keep it private until it was almost finished?
Writing this book began with my five-page letter of complaint about my former psychiatrist, which I filed through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, Canada, where my six years of “therapy” had occurred. At the close of that complaint process, and after I sued the doctor for medical malpractice, I used those five pages as the foundation for my book. “What happened” in the therapy (dates of treatment, medications he prescribed and their side effects, other acts of impropriety, etc.) were all fairly straight forward, but bringing meaning to my experiences, understanding how it all had impacted me, took years of writing and re-writing, then more writing and rewriting and soul searching.
For quite a while now, I’ve been interested in death and dying. I’ve noticed that most people pretend that death is something that will really never happen to them, and if you experience the death of a loved one, not that many people feel comfortable talking with you about that experience.
I had a really bad time in a creative writing class I took in college.
It was my senior year and a very small class. I desperately wanted to write, but I was having huge problems even finishing one page. Everything I wrote felt clumsy, awkward, and stupid. I was also introverted, super sensitive, and just plain weird. On top of this, the other students in the class seemed to know exactly what they were doing. They seemed to be clicking with the teacher, and handing in work that aligned perfectly with her expectations.
And the teacher did have firm expectations, that much was clear. She seemed very knowledgeable about publishing and what people wanted to read. She had a lot of opinions on what we should spend our time writing, and what would be a waste.
Why doesn’t my book look like the other popular books in my genre?
I get this question, in various forms, from my clients all the time.
Sometimes it’s an issue of genre-blending. For instance, up until a few years ago most of the sci-fi/western writers out there felt like freaks, because this was a very small genre with a select audience and there was not yet a level of cultural acceptance that came with it. If you were writing sci-fi/western stories in the year 2003 you might have just given up altogether when you got back rejection after rejection from agents who didn’t really understand what you were writing or how it might sell.
Today’s Author Interview is with Greta Beigel, journalist and author of Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life: A Memoir of Music and Survival.
I’m always looking for good memoirs by women writers and I devoured this one in just a few days. Kvetch is about growing up an Orthodox Jew and a tormented child piano prodigy in South Africa, and offers a rare look at Jewry’s response to the events of apartheid, circa the 1960s. It also goes behind the scenes of two rarefied worlds: classical music performance—and the workings of a California metropolitan daily newspaper.