Reasons why you shouldn't trust anyone at all with your secrets, especially wannabe novelists ...
Dear family and friends
You may or may not be aware that I have been writing a novel. This is a fictional book, but contains autobiographical elements. There is absolutely no reason at all why you should worry about this, but I thought I would write to reassure you, nevertheless.
I have planned my characters so carefully that, even though I may loosely base them on real people, no one would guess who. For instance, I realise that you, my sister Theresa, would be humiliated if I wrote about someone obsessed with her tiny breasts and who is saving up every penny from her job as a personnel advisor to pay for silicon implantation by Mr Heath-Jones at 14 Harley Street. You would be justified in accusing me of exploiting your personal problems for my own ends. So my main character, a personnel assistant, is, instead, having her gigantic breasts reduced by Mr Heath-Jones at 14 Harley Street. You see, I am more sensitive than you realise. And it goes without saying that I would never use your first name so I am using your middle name, Ermintrudina, to protect your identity.
Father, do not worry. Your tranquilliser and alcohol addictions and that brief affair you had with the decorator are secrets which are hidden in the bosom of our family. So I have changed the name of the tranquilliser and, as an extra precaution, the name of the decorator too. You’ve always said to me yourself, you can’t be too careful, and I know you will be delighted that I have heeded your wise advice.
Mother, I know you will be anxious that, should I ever be interviewed on arts programmes about my book, the presenters will probe into my early life. Please, do not fret. There are no clues in the novel that could form the basis for such an interview. Should an interviewer have gathered from other incidental sources that you beat me with various pieces of sports equipment, I will of course feel free to answer their questions. But it certainly won’t have anything to do with the passage about the little girl who attacks her doll with a cricket bat, shouting “That’s what you get for not cleaning your room, you wicked child.”
John, my affectionate brother. How you have made your fortune is not my business and, if you hadn’t shared with me voluntarily about your drug-trafficking, I would never have pried. I know you have confided in me and I value our relationship highly, so much so that I have carefully avoided using stories about drug-trafficking and have made my male character an arms-dealer instead. It is true, he also buys a brand new car with funds from a Swiss bank account and acquires a personal registration number not unlike the one on your BMW. But his car is a Mercedes, and no one could draw any conclusions that would put you at risk of exposure.
I am determined that my family should not fear the invasion of the press should I become famous. I have, therefore, carefully disguised the location of our family house. Having put many hours of thought into this, I have called the street Chalfont St Giles Lane instead of Chalfont St Giles Road. Should I have an affair with a famous rock star, the paparazzi will never find the house, which is just as well, as part of my five year career plan towards becoming a well-known writer is, indeed, to have such an affair.
You all know, my closest friends, that I consider the experiences we have shared to be sacrosanct and definitely not for the public gaze. Those of you now happily married, for instance, would be horrified to find that I had written about that incident on holiday when we were all Exeter University students. I am sure the Italian waiters involved would also be mortified. Please put your minds at rest. I am setting the incident in Cyprus instead and changing the date of the holiday from July 1974 to August 1974. Again, I will be using my innovative anagram techniques for your added protection.
Despite my attempts to reassure you all, it would only be natural for you to wish to see a copy of my manuscript, so, although my book is at the printing stage and will be in all major bookshops by the end of the month, I have enclosed a personal copy of the manuscript for each of you. I will, of course, welcome your feedback, and will contact you as soon as I return from the Caribbean.
With fondest love