A Letter To My Enemies

Dear Adversaries,

For the first three to four years after my book was published, I suffered great hurt at being erased by the literary group that dominates the discourse in Ireland, and greater hurt still at the gaslighting perpetuated by other authors who refused to acknowledge that such erasure and enmity took place. In fact they openly derided me for saying it had, to the point of driving me to a public and humiliating near-breakdown.

(Afterwards, the shrink said, “You wrote a good book.” She was primarily getting ME to affirm it in the midst of the plastic-saturated tide of gaslighting bullshit I was dealing with, but also because she nommed that book!)

This group reviewed my work with contempt in a national newspaper (no point denying it, the f***ing thing follows me round on Google like someone meat-farting in a bathroom, then exiting while saying “It stinks in here” and waving the smell around the corridor to prove their point), or, in other cases, point-blank ignored it, while professing crazy enthusiasm about every theme in fiction I happened to be writing about. (SMDH – girl, I see you.) I appeared on no fossil-fuel-sponsored Irish Book of the Year award lists – while I did get shortlisted in the UK. These people failed to invite me to festivals that were relevant to my genre (and no, saying “oh that email address is no good, you need to get on the phone to X” is NOT a valid explanation of my continued exclusion when my publisher has sent on the damn book.)

(Also frustrating is the lack of acknowledgement that this clique mechanism is a filter through which a few mediocre books written in crap English move on to greater things because their creators went to a certain university and they’re not too Catholic McMucksavage and they’re pale and mysterious and Sad-Eyed-Lady-Or-Gentleman-Of-The-Lowlands-desirable and someone knows someone and the criteria are not primarily literary, but social, meaning many good books are left behind.)

Oh, my enemies, never doubt your power.

BUT – after going through a lot of anger and grief for a long time, and experiencing commercial failure, now with time moving on, my first book being published on audio and my second book approaching, I have reached a place where I can offer you my forgiveness. Forgiveness because for all I was alone during that time, I can now appreciate my freedom. If you are a nobody, then, unlike Chuck Rhoades in Billions, you owe nobody any favours. If Irish writer John Boyne acts churlishly towards the trans community, I can say outright on my own feed that John Boyne has acted churlishly towards the trans community. Also if he has never recanted his misogyny in an earlier book review I can say that too. He may be a prolific and successful novelist – and good luck to him – but he’s no untouchable national treasure as far as I’m concerned. There is no omerta enforced on me speaking about such things – because the penalties have already been imposed. Whereas others who are in the nexus stay silent for fear of them.

But I don’t respect that culture any more. I don’t owe it my time, my abjection, my pleas or my diplomacy. I’m free to speak my mind, thanks to you. I understand now why the other authors denied my experience so hurtfully. They were terrified that a similar injustice would happen to them. But it’s OK. Really. I’ve given up trying to make it, and it’s fine. Now I’m just writing for the joy of the art.

The people who discounted my work out the gate have given me that freedom and for that, I thank them and wish them well in their own careers and lives. Perhaps they were sincere, or perhaps my work was too uncomfortably close to the bone for their good-room sensibilities. But it doesn’t matter either way. Because it frees me up to do what I’m good at – writing stories that speak truth to power and winning and retaining the respect of the reader.

As John Lennon said – “I’m not a moptop any more. I can say what I like.”

I wish you, dear adversaries, the same freedom.

With good will,

Susan