Many early readers have been amazed that you’ve managed to write a ‘must-read’ about a topic as difficult to talk and hear about as rape, particularly given the graphic descriptions at the start of the novel – how do you find the balance when writing a darker story? How you find the line to toe, without stepping over it?
“When I started writing All Is Not Forgotten, I got into the head of the narrator. Given his profession, his ego, his back story and his emotional make-up, I knew I had to stay true to his voice even when describing the rape. Using a first person narrator opens up an enormous tool box for a writer to use to convey information to the reader. Not only is the reader learning things through the facts that the narrator is providing, but deeper, more subtle information is also being given, almost subliminally, through the choice of the words used, the tone, the length of the sentences and even the cadence of the paragraphs. For example, I thought very carefully about whether Dr. Forrester would use profanity or clinical terms when describing the rape because I knew I would be sending messages to the reader in all of these ways. This made it easier to write those passages because I had a job to do and I had to execute it with precision.
That said, I did have moments when I was revising that I found myself skipping over those passages. It is a very different experience to write the words than to read them. I also had many other people read the book before it went to publication and there were discussions about where this line was. The language used to describe the rape was not taken lightly.
I don’t think any kind of violence should be the subject of gratuitous exploitation, but at the same time, the issues raised in the book are worthy of being explored honestly and openly. If we do not learn what really happened to Jenny in those woods, then we cannot fully understand the emotional response she had when it was occurring, or the rage that is instilled in her father when he cannot seek justice. The reader has to have a sound understanding of the depth of despair that this family feels and to do that, they must be told what happened with some degree of detail. And that is the line that all writers have to face when writing about dark subject matter.
I was thinking about a film I saw years ago about World War II called Saving Private Ryan. That film depicted the battle at Normandy with a kind of realism and graphic detail that I had never seen before in a movie about that war. To this day, it stands out in my mind because I was made to see and feel the horror of what really happened, how each man who stepped to the front of the line was riddled with bullets and left to die in the water. Books and films that depict any kind of violence have to find this line so that the audience can be brought as close as possible to the subject matter without it becoming prurient. This is not an easy task, but it was very much my intention as I wrote about this important topic.”
All Is Not Forgotten
14th Juluy 2016
You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.
Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.
That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.
It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.
And that could destroy as much as it heals.