Today I’m pleased to welcome Leslie Tate to the blog. Leslie is the author of Purple and Blue and his latest book, Heaven’s Rage was published on 1 December 2016.
Here Leslie talks about writing Heaven’s Rage.
HEAVEN’S RAGE, AN IMAGINARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY
If you’re like me, when you look back at childhood, the scenes in your mind are set aside, somehow, from the world they were in. There’s an abstraction about them, a kind of still life quality that gives them an unreal feel. So it seems that things back then might not have actually happened, and that what we call our past is fragmentary, as if each memory was a dream or a working hypothesis.
In my book, Heaven’s Rage, I attempted to describe those early experiences and other formative ‘hot spots’. So I started by piecing together a story from the pictures in my head, backed up by things I’d heard from my family. My ‘imaginary autobiography’ soon grew into a series of lyrical movements exploring my wider creative memories. I wanted to get close to how we really remember, which seems to me to be more in discrete cameos than connected narratives. And by using different styles – including novelistic writing, psychological theories, dialogues and poetry – I was able to visit and revisit the key moments in my past, including addiction, cross-dressing, childhood dreams and late-life illness. Switching between styles allowed me to sample my experience, focussing on states of being rather than actions, while approaching each incident from more than one angle. And the common thread that ran through all the scenes was the power of the imagination.
As I wrote Heaven’s Rage in parts, I had to go back afterwards and either substitute new material for scenes I’d already covered or offer a different viewpoint. As I did so I began to question myself. Was I simply making up a self-justifying version of events? Was I shaping what had happened too much? And was the language driving me to simplify my experiences into a linear narrative, rather than the truth? The answer to all three questions was both yes and no. Words impose order and priorities. Like fiction, they go their own way and won’t be fitted to pre-set formulas. Words can also, at times, can take you down a tunnel where there’s only one way of putting it – usually after repeated edits, and certainly not what you’d intended to write. So, although I was working from central incidents, a kind of retrospective elaboration crept into my story. And as my autobiography expanded, the themes took over from the personal anecdotes – not a bad thing, because it provided distance and a breathing space for the reflective reader. In the end it seemed that the act of writing a so-called factual autobiography had created my own independent, ‘fictionalised’ life.
But the experiences were authentic, and recognisably mine – imaginatively and emotionally, which is how memory works. What we believe happened maybe a construct, but it’s true for us, and shapes who we are. There’s a stageyness about life, as if we were engaged
in continuous attempts at personal reinvention. In Heaven’s Rage I set out to explore how these pre-conscious beliefs affect our behaviour, so the book examines what you might call the schemas of the heart.
To quote my own blurb: ‘Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage – William Blake.’
About the author:
Leslie is also a novelist, currently working on a trilogy exploring free love, traditional courtship, open marriage and late-life romance. The first two parts are already published.
* Book one, Purple, is a coming-of-age tale set in the 60s. To find out about Purple, go to http://leslietate.com/shop/purple/.
* Book two, Blue, is about open relationships in a 90s feminist collective. To read about Blue, go to http://leslietate.com/shop/blue/.
* Book three, Violet, which brings the story up to date, will be published in 2017. Leslie’s website is www.leslietate.com.
To find him on Facebook go to Leslie Stuart Tate (personal) and Leslie Tate (author page).
His Twitter handle is @LSTateAuthor.
About the book:
‘Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage – William Blake.’