Know My Name – a memoir by Chanel Miller

When you write a novel where one of the main characters is raped, you need to dig very, very deep to understand what that means in terms of the physical, emotional, and psychological effect on the victim. For my novel, You Don’t Know Me, the very last thing I wanted to do was diminish, in any way, the profound, life-altering, and seriously damaging effect of such an occurrence.

One of the books I read to inform myself is Know My Name, a memoir by Chanel Miller.

Let me begin by saying that Chanel Miller is an amazing writer and a woman of great bravery. “Writing is the way I process the world,” Chanel says at the end of her memoir. She states that she writes “to show how victims are treated at this moment in time, to record the temperature of our culture.” The culture of dealing with sexual assault victims.

Chanel Miller’s ability to take the reader into the gritty depths of what happened to her amazed me. I’ve selected a few quotes from her memoir that resonated for me in terms of the system that victimizes victims and the strength required to fight for what’s right. Believe me there are many, many more insightful quotes I could include.

For years, the crime of sexual assault depended on our silence. The fear of knowing what happened if we spoke. Society gave us one thousand reasons; don’t speak if you lack evidence, if it happened too long ago, if you were drunk, if the man is powerful, if you’ll face blowback, if it threatens your safety.”

“The agony is incessant, unyielding, but when you get to the point where you feel like everything’s gone, there’s a little twist, a flame, a small shift. It is subtle, it comes when you least expect it. Wait for it. This is the rule of the universe, this is the one thing in life I know to be true. No matter how awful and long your journey, I can promise you the turn. One day it will lift.

“This is not about the victim’s lack of effort. This is about society’s failure to have systems in place in which victims feel there’s a probable chance of achieving safety, justice, and restoration rather than being retraumatized, publicly shamed, psychologically tormented, and verbally mauled.”

Often it seems easier to suffer rape alone, than face the dismembering that comes with seeking support.”

Assault buries the self. We lose sight of how and when we are allowed to occupy space. We are made to doubt our abilities, disparaged when we speak.”

After Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement went viral, Joe Biden took the time to write to her. “In his letter, he wrote, I see you. What did it mean that the vice-president of the United States of America had stopped every important thing he was doing, to write I see you.” “Biden said, You have given them the strength they need to fight back. And so, I believe, you will save lives.”

Read Know My Name. You will never look at sexual assault again without compassion, without understanding, and without a deep appreciation for what it takes to merely go on with your life.

You Don’t Know Me – as yet unpublished – is my first contemporary novel. 

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

When dithering descends

I have this thing I do when my mind is muddled, my direction uncertain, and reality is not quite as hoped – I clean my desk and files. Somehow an orderly work place – the alcove in my bedroom – helps me refocus.

Writing wise, the past year has been challenging. I know I’ve moaned about this before so I’ll give the quick version: manuscript rejected by my publisher, agent can’t find a home for it, new book proposal also rejected by the same publisher. That’s over two years of work in limbo, folks. Confidence is serious whacked at this point.

At the moment, the bedroom is littered with piles of paper, file folders placed on the floor, the bed, the desk as I sort through three years of stuff. And here, dear readers, is the point. I’ve just come across the letter my editor sent when she first reviewed Time and Regret. I’ll share a few bits with you and hope you’ll understand the reason for doing so.

“Time and Regret is a marvellous novel!” – yes, she did include an exclamation mark.

“I love the way the narrative slowly builds and the mystery unfolds over the course of the book just as much as I love the way you slowly develop relationships and so much careful history between all the characters.”

“You have a beautiful writing style, and the mixture of dialogue and narrative seems perfectly balanced.”

“The pacing in the book is truly wonderful, and pulls the reader right along throughout the entire novel – clearly I was captivated since I stayed up till midnight to finish it!”

OK – enough about me. Back to clearing the decks so I can get to work. Thanks for listening.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

The Evolution of a Novel

No doubt some authors conceive a novel, create a brief outline then write full steam ahead. The Admiral’s Wife, my current WIP, is not such a novel.

At the beginning, this novel was titled East Rising Sun, the inspiration taken from a qigong move of that name. Around 2009, I conceived the idea of writing a novel about four expat wives living far away from their respective homes. The notion came from my own three years as an expat – the pejorative term was trailing spouse – based in Hong Kong.

I imagined a story about the trials and tribulations of living far away from everything that is familiar, surrounded by a different culture, strange foods and an incomprehensible language. From personal experience, I knew how difficult this was – excitement and euphoria followed by the slam of reality and intense feelings of loneliness and dislocation. I’d even written a series of articles about the journey and the personal growth involved and at an optimistic moment, outlined a non-fiction book – never written – called Thriving as an Expat Spouse.

Four women – a Brit, an Australian, an American and a French woman – all met at a qigong class. Yes, I attended a series of qigong classes one fall while living in Hong Kong. Each woman had her own struggle (husbands, children, life), which the group helped her overcome. I had in mind a story like The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs or The Bridge Club by Patricia Sands.

Not surprisingly, one of the characters was based on my own circumstances although the others were totally fabricated. Here’s the opening paragraph of that long ago version.

Dislocation. That was the word that came to mind as I sat on my favourite chair, feet stretched out on the hassock, reflecting on our first four months in Hong Kong. Loneliness didn’t quite capture how disconnected I felt, severed from the familiar, out of place, startled each time I looked at my surroundings, as if perhaps a good pinch would transport me back home.

Twelve months later, I set that novel aside in favour of writing Lies Told in Silence, my second work of historical fiction. I had no intention of returning to it.

More on the evolution of a novel next week.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.