• www.inkwellwriters.ie

The Truth is in the Telling: Do or Die

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Non-Fiction Guides | Writing Memoir

Rita Harling

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

To some people writing is a chore and to others it is a passion. I have always loved writing however, I never imagined that one day my dream of being a published author would ever materialise. My book was published on February 4th  2011 by Y books, a new dynamic Irish publishing house. The title of my book is, Do or Die: How I Escaped Life with a Murderer.

Although the title seems to be shocking, this is the publisher’s aim – so that your book can get as much attention as possible when it eventually reaches the book shelves. I remember feeling slightly unsure about the title but, after giving it some thought, it made sense. Publishers may not always agree to the title that you have created for your work, but they are marketing gurus and know more about publishing and the market place than you do as an author. So the author must also feel comfortable with their publisher and trust them with their work.

I remember when I started writing my story I was at first a little apprehensive due to the subject matter that I was going to be writing about, gangland Ireland and domestic abuse, and to the exposure that my story was going to receive.

I was opening up my life to the public domain. This was not a fictional story that I was going to be writing about. I was going to write about a horrific part of my life and I was going to have to relive and remember the horrid things that I had gone through while doing so. I had made a conscious decision before I submitted my proposal to the publisher, a decision that I was going to complete this book in the hope that it may also help someone else. Once I had done that there was no turning back for me. You need to be committed and compelled to finish your story, especially if you have never written before and especially if it is real.

Now, I have nearly finished my second book which is fiction. I find it a completely different style of writing. I have to say, it seemed easier when I was writing my own story as I already had the story, the characters, the beginning, the middle and the end. I just needed to add in all of the details and bring it to life. I find fiction harder to write because you have to build everything from scratch. However, with fiction you are able to use your creativity and imagination more freely and avoid reliving actual traumatic events. This can be very hard when you are writing about your own life, as you are bringing everything to the surface again and going through extreme emotions that you have probably buried and tried to forget.

I remember at one stage during the editing of my memoir that I had to come away from my desk and leave my writing there for a few days until I could face it again. Some days my emotions took over and I would often feel myself getting down in the dumps. However, after finishing the book I felt like a new woman. Writing it had been liberating and therapeutic for me.

It made me realise just how strong a woman I had become.

When Ybooks published and released Do or Die I really did not know what to expect from the public or how the book would be received. The content of my book caused some people to approach me with concerns about my safety, they worried about retaliation. I, on the other hand, did not. I had escaped from hell and, to me, there was nothing that was worse than where I had just run from. Others found it easier, after reading of my experiences, to tell me stories about friends they knew of who were going through the same abuse and ask me for advice on how they could help them. So the book seems to have reached a varied group of people. It’s all positive. I don’t believe in sweeping things under the carpet and pretending nothing happened. It’s not healthy.

To anyone who is thinking of writing an autobiography or memoir be sure that it something that you believe in and that it is something that you are sure that you want to do. Once it is published there is no room for regret.

It is never easy to write personal, traumatic scenes. You have to write it exactly as you remember it so that the reader can feel and understand your pain as if they are actually going through it with you. My advice is to say it as it is. Do not be afraid to add your feelings and emotions either as it will make it feel real for the reader.

Be aware with memoir that it is an area that can be open to legal action being taken against the author. Make sure that you change characters names where needed and if you are writing actual accounts of incidents make sure that they have already been documented and recorded in for instance, newspaper editorials, Garda records, courts and so on. A lot of memoir writers change names were appropriate – this is very important. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit.

About the author

(c) Rita Harling July 2011

Rita Harling was born in Dublin. She left school at sixteen in order to get a job but later returned to education as a mature student. She studied computer maintenance which led to a career in the aviation sector.  After escaping an abusive marriage, Rita turned to her love of poetry, writing and art, and wrote Do or Die.  It served as a chronicle of her torment and triumph in surviving and ending the marriage. Rita has two children, Robyn and Conor, and now lives with her fiance.

  • The Dark Room: A thrilling new novel from the number one Irish Times bestselling author of Keep Your Eyes on Me
  • allianceindependentauthors.org

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books