May 17, 2014

Esther Freud - Lucky Breaks and Ghost Stories

Here's another great post by Alex Warlow, this time about Esther Freud's talk at The Hub.

With my schoolgirl knowledge of Esther’s great-grandfather Sigmund Freud, I’m not sure whether to be shocked or not that Esther began her talk by talking about her very real belief in ghosts.

[caption id="attachment_364" align="alignright" width="300"] Esther Freud at The Hub[/caption]

When it comes to inspiration, Esther says it’s impossible to escape her own experiences. She explained that even while writing her new book ‘Mr Mac and Me’ she came at it from a very personal angle; even with it being set in the past, it was her house in Suffolk which she believed to be haunted that inspired the character of the young boy and learning about a famous architect who once lived there who inspired the protagonist.

Her most recent book apart from ‘Mr Mac and Me’ was ‘Lucky Break’, which tells of the complicated social lives and dramas of a bunch of aspiring actors. This, she says, was taken straight out of the world that she knew and loved. Freud read out a particularly deft line about how one of the characters could understand why actor’s spoke "with such intensity. How could you not say 'darling' when you'd journeyed through a lifetime with a person, bared your soul, wept tears, exchanged kisses, borne heartache, reached the heights of unimagined bliss?"

In a similar way, how could Freud not draw from such rich experience for her works? The tale told of her unconventional childhood in Morocco recounted in 'Hideous Kinky', for example, would make anything she could dream up seem ordinary anyway.

The protagonist in ‘Mr Mac and Me’ is based on the artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who never found fame in his lifetime but of course posthumously made it onto the £50 note amongst many other lasting impressions. Here is how the boy really does perform the role of the ghost, making the reader aware of a character who died in the 1920s but still lives on today.

There were a lot of questions asked about her art imitating life; one of the funniest insights I drew from her talk was that often she finds people don’t write for two reasons: a lack of discipline or a fear of what their mother would think. Esther’s advice was just to go for it and edit after, if you’ve been particularly harsh about someone drawn from real life, just make them extra attractive and they won’t mind.

Although Esther comes across as being a very privileged woman in many ways, she speaks about great pain in her life, as we all undoubtedly have. She talks about not giving too much away in her writing so not to sully some of life’s precious experiences.