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Tell us a little about your upcoming memoir, No Place to Lie, and the story behind it.
No Place to Lie is a vividly evocative read about family secrets: the truth behind my younger brother’s death in 1981 and the hidden secret that my mother took to her grave. I wrote it as a real page-turner and readers get to ‘see’ the story from different angles as well as gain an insight into the legal case surrounding my brother’s death from the actual court evidence filed at the time.
What made you decide to tell this story now?
I had to wait for nearly forty years – until both of my parents had died – before I could write this story. My father adamantly maintained that David’s death was an accident or even murder – it was how Dad got through his own life. When my mum died in 2017, I thought: Now is my chance. And then she left an extraordinary confession which added a whole new dimension, which I needed to write about too.
What impact do you hope No Place to Lie has on its readers?
It’s a story of love, loss, passion and ultimately joy, taking steps towards a brighter life. Review readers have told me they have been moved beyond measure, that they couldn’t put it down, it was so relatable and they loved it. It seems to have a uniquely powerful effect on everyone who reads it, depending on their own life story. I’m excited to hear about the reactions of a wider audience.
What was your experience of writing No Place to Lie?
It was a book which ultimately burst out of me – sometimes the writing experience was really tough, sometimes joyful, but I kept going. Towards the end of my writing, it was as if the book took on the task of writing itself – it would sometimes wake me up at 3 a.m. to tell me I’d missed a bit in Chapter 21! It felt like my soul wrote this book: it was a deeply powerful experience.
No Place to Lie explores the impact of silence on mental health and, in turn, the healing power of talking. Could you elaborate a little on this?
Conflicts were never really resolved in my family of origin, because we just didn’t really talk about the stuff that mattered, even though my parents were very liberal. I can’t remember being asked as a child how I felt, although I can remember being asked whether I’d like a drink probably thousands of times. To tackle difficult issues, to do the work, you need to talk, in a safe space, about the hurt you’ve endured and to have that acknowledged. I think that’s the start. Talking helps us connect deeply with people – we’re hardwired for connection to be able to survive and thrive as human beings.
Tell us about your plans to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats and your mission to raise money for the Samaritans and other charities.
In 2023 my husband Tim and I plan to do the LEJOG walk alongside our dogs Ziggy Stardust and his mum Pippin – which we’re calling the Silver Lining Tour. We’ll be stopping along the route to do talks about unlocking secrets which can have such a corrosive effect on people’s lives and fundraising for suicide prevention and mental well-being charities too.
If you could communicate one key message to your readers, what would it be?
Have courage, trust yourself, be strong, be vulnerable, take a step into the arena. Oh dear, that’s five things, isn’t it?
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I’ve traditionally published in the past (e.g. Penguin, Simon & Schuster) but for this intensely personal story, I wanted to have agency and real creative freedom. I also wanted a highly professional collaborative team – we all work better together when connected.
And finally, what are your hopes for No Place to Lie now that it is published?
I would love No Place to Lie to be a talking point for people to tell their own heartfelt stories to one another, unlocking the door to that. I’d also love it to be made into a film. Emma Thompson, do you hear me?
You can buy Helen’s book on Waterstones and Amazon, keep up to date with her on Twitter and hear more about her fascinating story on YouTube.