Gill Hoffs interview with Meg Tuite
These are two incredibly powerful and disturbingly vivid pieces. “The Tupperware Baby” and “What To Do When You Wake Up Raped.” I was blasted away by both, Gill. Tell me about the inspiration for these two stories.
They disturbed me too! Before I had my son, Angus, I had four miscarriages. I think of the first of these as The Tupperware Baby – with capital letters like that. It was a horrible time but meant when we finally had Angus we appreciated him all the more. They are extremely common and rarely anyone’s fault. When mishandled, as ours were, it can actually help in that those who screw up can become a focus of the angry feelings that often accompany this kind of bereavement. Far better, I think, to be angry at someone else’s ineptitude or callousness than at your nearest and dearest who are already suffering too.
“What To Do When You Wake Up Raped” was a title that jumped into my head and wouldn’t quit nagging me until I wrote the piece to match it. I’ve worked with children who have been raped, and children who were strongly suspected to have been raped, and had friends who have experienced this trauma. My husband worked in criminal forensics till last year, and worked very hard both to catch and convict rapists and clear the names of the innocent. I’m very proud of him. This piece is not factual. I would suggest reading it as fiction rather than a genuine How To Cope… guide. If you or someone you know have suffered this violation I would strongly suggest approaching law enforcement agencies and a counsellor immediately.
I love the style that you use in these stories. A document or blow-by-blow of what happens in “The Tupperware Baby” and in “What To Do…” a list of what to do/what not to do while holding on to your power as you make the decision on which route to take. It adds more of a punch using this moment-to-moment tactic of what happens next. Care to elaborate on your process while writing these?
Thank you, Meg! As is often the case with my writing, I’ll have a seed of an idea in my head, a title that won’t quit circling in my mind till I type it out, or a phrase that demands some attention, and my fingers take it from there. I wish I could say that it was thought out in advance. I think on some level of consciousness the words are always percolating away in my head, arranging themselves into pleasing patterns and intruding on my daily life when they’re ‘done’. Both these pieces are perhaps 95% of what spilled out onto the keyboard originally. It feels like I’ve purged something from my innermost thoughts when I write in this way. Quite often I read and re-read pieces written like this, trying to identify what of me could have written it, then go for a sleep. With a four year old in the house, I need it!
What books are you reading at this time?
I’m currently re-reading Show Me A Hero: The Sin Of Richard Byrd Jnr., by my literary hero Jeremy Scott, and savouring his eloquence and elegant prose. As I’m researching for my third novel just now, I’m also reading a mixture of books for information, including Krazy Kat And Ignatz by George Herriman – cartoons from the early 1900s; Alexander Von Humboldt’s travel narrative of piranhas, cannibalism, and the delights of exploring South America in the early 1800s; Great Tales from English History by Robert Lacey (okay, that one’s just for fun, I’ll admit); and A Bad Spell For The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (as a bedtime story for Angus – though I’ve been reading ahead to find out what happens next!). I also have an enormous pile of books still to be read; a mixture of murder mysteries, maritime history texts, and books about the 1930s. Soon, very soon, I shall be reading these too.
Who would you say are your biggest influences in choosing to write?
I think it would be more accurate to say the writing chose me. Jeremy Scott writes fact that reads like fiction with a delicacy, wit, and roguishness that beguiles and stimulates me at the same time. I find Len Kuntz’s work quite delicious – and the way he views subjects, or phrases a description, very interesting as a writer not just as a reader. My mother has always hoped I would write a ‘bonkbuster’ or bestseller that would allow me, financially, to devote my time to writing and give her something scandalous to read. I also had an amazing English teacher when I was 11 or 12, Miss Garven, who was wonderfully encouraging. My husband, Nana and in-laws are very supportive too. I’m lucky to have family and friends who are so thrilled for me to live my dream. I’m grateful for them every single day.
What project are you working on at this time?
I’m writing my third novel – interrupted by moving back to Scotland unexpectedly before Christmas – and submitting to agents. It’s a book that’s been a long time coming, based on one of the first short stories I wrote. Even back then I remember saying to my husband that I wished it were a book or a film so I could go back to the story and just be there for a while. Thanks to a friend’s prompting and encouragement, that’s exactly what I’m doing now – and I’m thrilled!