Monday, 17 March 2014
Tell me a secret
Hello, it's Elen again. I wrote the character of Iris - the mother with the secret past that unfurled when she died. I like writing characters with secrets. I think we all hold them and that's what makes us interesting and layered like onions.
I used to be a journalist and one of my most effective questions during an interview was, 'Tell me a secret.' There's something disarming about being asked to reveal a secret. Some people refused, others off-guard would reveal something about themselves that was absent from all their press cuttings. It's a satisfying question.
One leading business man asked me the question right back. He said, 'I'm not telling you my secret, until you tell me yours.' It felt invasive. I didn't know what to say. Because, of course, there are secrets and then, there are secrets. I deserved his response and it was illuminating to have the question thrown back. I thought for a while and then I told him. 'I'm in my pyjamas,' I said. I should add at this point that the interview was taking place at 11:30 in the morning. I should also add that it was a telephone interview, not a face-to-face meeting. And finally, I would like to say that I'm a freelance writer, so I wasn't in the office in my dressing gown.
Anyhow. Back to Iris and her secrets. I'm interested in the idea of whether all secrets are toxic. I don't think so. But I do believe that the world can be divided into two types of people - those that believe secrets are damaging, and those that believe we all need secrets, that we all need to keep something of ourselves just for ourselves. That's all.