Interview with Bertie Blackman by Freya Bennett
I just finished reading Bohemian Negligence, congratulations, it’s such a stunning book. When did the idea to write a memoir come about?
It been years in the making really… but I started to write it in my head about a year before I put pen to paper. My agent had been lightly suggesting it for a while – but it wasn’t until my dad passed away, that I felt like it was the right time. It was in the grief of losing him, and swimming in the memories – that I felt compelled to put pen to paper. I also really wanted to capture a particular time of my life, before judgement set in. Or moreover, my adult mind stared to grow! Patti Smiths childhood memoir woolgathering was a great inspiration to me, and gave me great courage to share.
Your story deals with some heavy topics, which I’m sure were difficult to relive, how did you take care of yourself during the writing process?
It was difficult and complex, and continues to be. But I was actually pregnant at the time, so instead of resorting to drinking wine to cope, I would go for a swim in the ocean or just put headphones on and listen to loud music to drown everything out. It was also really important for me to simply just process it all. Good therapy!
Have you shared the book with family and how did they react to the retelling of your childhood?
I have shared the book with my family now, yes. Giving the finished book to my mum was the hardest. We didn’t talk a lot about the details of things when they happened, because I was so young. And then she respectfully waited until I was ready to talk – which wasn’t really until I had written this all down. We have had some great conversations since, and it has been really healing for us. Its been healing for us all as a family as well – which is what I was hoping would happen.
How was the transition from lyrical writing to book writing?
For this book – it really felt very similar. I would just shut my eyes… picture the feeling and put myself back in the memory – and simply just write. It was very visceral as a practice. I would write in the very early hours of the morning when it was dark and quiet. And I would sometimes wake in the middle of the night as well. Much like songwriting. It must come from the same place. A strange place!
As a new parent, how did it feel to relive your childhood? Did it give it a new edge?
It was hard. I intentionally wrote the more difficult parts of the book before Rumi was born, because I knew it would be really hard to do while looking at my little baby. I think it gave it a particular edge, because I knew I only had a few months to get it done. Made me dive deeper I would say.
What do you hope people get from reading this book?
I really wanted to share my story to help others who have been through similar experiences. Hearing others stand up and use their voice to call out behaviour is really integral to not feeling alone. I also really wanted to show that difficult/challenging experiences can become beautiful as well. There is a light and shade in every experience of life – but it has taken some perspective to get to that!
The book is so full of memories, how did you remember so much detail from your child? Have you always had a good memory or did it take some digging?
I don’t know how really. I just have a crazy good memory of my childhood. I think because it was so full of experience and because I was given just a textural language by my mother and father – that I perhaps was able to paint my memories in a particular way.
Will we be blessed with more books by Bertie Blackman in the future?
You sure will! I am working on a gothic horror at the moment – which will be developed into a screen play. I have also written another children’s book as well, but just trying to find the right timing for it.