“We continue the chain of generations and, knowingly or not, willingly or unwillingly, we pay debts of the past: as long as we have not cleared the slate, an invisible loyalty impels us to repeat a moment of incredible joy, or unbearable sorrow, an injustice or tragic death. Or its echo.”
The Ancestor Syndrome, by Anne Ancelin-Schutzenburger
The first stories I can remember were told to me by my grandmother, who enthralled me with tales of her mother, known as Big Mama, who gave birth to twenty children and talked to invisible spirits. I would ask her to repeat these stories of my ancestors over and over again, right up until her death in 2001.
So when I started attending classes in creative writing fifteen years ago, I turned to my family history, to use in writing exercises. I created a patchwork of stories about the lives of Annie and Bill Gifford, people I knew only from the tales I had been told. In my efforts to know more, I researched the facts of their lives; and in 2002, my aunt and I went looking for their graves. There we found a clue to a devastating secret.
This was the inspiration for Honor’s Ghost. I wanted to tell my great grandparents story in a particular way: to show the imaginary impact of the traumatic events of their lives, that were passed down to her fictional great granddaughter, Honor, as surely as her rare green eyes, in trace memories that left a legacy of unconscious fears and repeating patterns of behaviour.