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The Power of a Diary by Ali Mercer

Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
Ali Mercer

Ali Mercer

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When I was a kid, I wanted a diary as soon as I found out what the word meant. The idea of having a book of my own to write in I wanted was like magic. It made it seem as if life – even my life – was something that could be turned into a story, just through the act of witnessing it and writing it down. You could put whatever you wanted in a diary: things that had happened, how you felt about them, secrets. And nobody could disapprove or disagree or give you a bad mark for it, because that was the whole point of a diary: it was private, unless you gave someone else permission to read it.

I already loved reading – I was a big fan of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Malory Towers stories, and I had a huge pile of old Bunty comics. I’d tried my hand at writing little stories and poems, as we were asked to do at school, and I knew I wanted to be a writer – that was something else I wanted as soon as I knew what it was. But being a writer seemed like a very big thing to want. Unrealistic, too, since it wasn’t the kind of thing that people actually did, not like going to work or school. It seemed too much like fun. Wanting to be a writer was like wanting to escape, and one thing I had learned from stories was that wanting to escape usually meant trouble – look at Jack and the Beanstalk, for example.

My childhood diary-keeping didn’t last all that long – my 1981 Chip Club diary has many blank pages – but I took up keeping a diary again in my 20s, and kept going through several volumes. I still wanted to write, and I didn’t know how else to get started. My diary helped bridge the gap between wanting to write and actually doing it. It demystified writing and turned it into a habit, something I did day after day. It gave me a private, safe space to write, and it helped me to understand the importance of point of view, which shapes both what someone sees and how they see it.
My new novel, My Mother’s Choice (published by Bookouture), is, among other things, about the discovery of a diary, which has been hidden away in an old trunk in an attic. The diary is found by Dani, a fourteen-year-old girl, and it was written by her mother, Laura Rosewell, who disappeared seemingly without trace a decade earlier, and who nobody ever talks about. Dani hopes the diary will hold the answers to all the questions she has just begun to ask about what really happened to Laura. Laura’s diary is like a time capsule that has the power open up old secrets – but as Dani goes on to discover, the past can be a dangerous place, and other people may have their reasons for wanting to keep it out of sight.

My Mother’s Choice is my tribute to the life-changing power of a diary. However, as Dani comes to realise, a diary can offer clues and insights, but it can never tell the whole story. After all, it is only one person’s point of view. What Dani learns during the course of the novel is how much more there is to the truth than the words her mother left behind.

(c) Ali Mercer

About My Mother’s Choice:

Nobody talks about my mother. Absolutely nobody. I have no idea what she was like. I’d always thought they kept quiet about her because they were sad. But what if it was because they were guilty?

I watch them at the school gates, all the mothers with their daughters. I see the hugs and all those thoughtful little adjustments to scarves and ponytails. How their love seems to overflow, they have so much of it to give.

And then I walk home to my aunt’s cold house, where there are a hundred rules for me to follow and only a single photograph of my mother to look at.

She is never spoken about in this house. They tell me that it will be easier if I don’t think about her.

It is strange though, isn’t it? That I know nothing about my own mother?

But they don’t know about the diary I’ve found up in the loft. Maybe they even forgot it was there. It doesn’t matter anymore if they won’t tell me anything. Because within these pages is what I’ve waited fourteen years to find out. And maybe some things I wish I could forget.

All I wanted was to bring our family closer together, but could what I find tear us apart instead?

A heartbreaking and powerful novel about family secrets and how we live with decisions we never thought we would have to make. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kate Hewitt and Amanda Prowse.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

My Mother’s Choice is my fifth novel, my third published by Bookouture. My previous novel, His Secret Family, which came out in September 2019, was a #1 UK Kindle and Bookstat ebook chart bestseller and also hit the #1 spot in Amazon UK’s most-sold fiction chart. (I still can’t quite believe it.)
I did an English degree in the early 90s and went on to work as a journalist – including a job as a reporter on The Stage newspaper – and in publishing. I now live in the Oxfordshire market town of Abingdon with my husband, two teenage children and an awful lot of books.
My son, who is thirteen, was diagnosed as autistic when he was four. At that time he had very little expressive language, and it was amazing to see how learning to read from simple picture books helped him pick up vocabulary and boosted his ability to communicate. If I’d needed any more convincing of the power of reading, that would have done the trick.

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