An Interview with Helen Garlick
I had the honour of interviewing Helen Garlick, author of No Place To Lie, for Sine FM, Doncaster's local radio station. In her memoir, Helen takes the reader on a journey through her family’s past, of unresolved conflicts and hidden secrets. Tracing the death of her younger brother David in 1981, in addition to a secret her mother took to her grave, the book inspires us to refrain from bottling our secrets and to be vulnerable, open and honest.
Trigger Warning: Suicide
Can you start by telling me a little about yourself and your connections to Doncaster?
I was born in Doncaster, in Hamilton Lodge, which I think has been knocked down these days. My dad, Geoffrey Garlick, has a firm of solicitors which was in Waterdale, just opposite St. James' Baths, so I think a lot of people might remember him. My mum was also born in Doncaster, Monica Garlick, and my brother, David. So lots of connections with Doncaster, and I still have relatives up there as well, so I come back and visit.
Can you give an introduction to your debut memoir and the inspiration behind it?
It's a story about family secrets. It's a story about the secret that my mum took to her grave, it's a story about what really happened in 1981 when my brother died. So it's a bit of a detective story, in a way. There's the court papers about what happened with David, and there's also what happened about my mum, which none of us had seen coming at all. My mum, after she died, left a confession that she wrote on an envelope saying that she was gay and she had been gay all her life, although she had been married to my dad for 59 years. So that was a massive surprise. Those two secrets are what I wrote about, and there it is - it's out there.
What did you learn from writing the book?
I'd learnt a huge amount. I think the first thing I learnt was how important it is that when you make promise to yourself, you keep it. I made a promise to myself back in 1981 that I was going to write this book and that I was going to tell the true story about what happened to my brother, David. In meeting that promise, it's kind of like you meet the commitment to yourself, so you trust yourself more. But I also learnt lots of facts. It's a process writing a book. I thought it would take me a year, it took me about 19 months in total. And its just keeping on going, you know. When you're writing, you can over estimate what you can do in a day, but you can massively underestimate what you can do in a year. If you keep on going at it, and keep on being consistent, you can get your book written.
You have your own YouTube channel, called ‘Hello! It’s Better To Talk’. What inspired you to start your channel and what do you hope people take from your videos?
Well here I am, a 62 year old starting a YouTube channel, it's mad isn't it! The real reason I started it off was after I'd finished the book, I needed to get the story out there. And the publishers did a press release, and there were three big errors in it. One was the name of my dad, another what was the type of gun my brother used (trigger warning), and there was another fact that was completely wrong as well. So I thought, No. I need to get my story out there, true. I need to tell people actually what really happened. So I decided just to go for it. Every Wednesday at noon, we upload a new episode of 'Hello! It's Better To Talk', and it's really about wanting to lead people to be more courageous, and talk about the stuff that matters. And the only way you can really do that is to start with yourself, so that's why I'm doing the YouTube channel. I'd love for all you [readers] to hop over, and if you're interested then please subscribe. It's an ongoing thing, so I've learnt a lot from it.
What would you say to any budding writers out there? Have you got any words of wisdom you can share from your own writing experience?
Oh gosh, I could probably talk for an hour or two about this! Be consistent. Set yourself a target, and just do it everyday. The real secret to writing - and this is mad but it's true - is, you've got to write. Just do it. If you write 200 words a day, 1,000 words a day, 20 minutes a day, whatever it is - on a daily practise basis you'll start building it up. And the other thing about writing a memoir is, there are so many things you can avoid writing about because you feel a bit of shame about it or you wonder what other people will think - that's where you need to go. Go to the place that kind of hurts, or the place where you feel vulnerable. That's where your soul almost starts taking over, and things will start to flow. Now that's just about memoir writing, but in any genre, go to where you just feel that buzz inside, or where you feel your soul talking to you; where you feel the sweet spot, the juicy bit. Head for there and write about that.
Have you got any ideas in mind for a future book?
Well I've got a couple of books that I'm working on at the moment. One is called The Golden Litter, and it's about a litter of cocker-spaniel puppies that I bred last year. So that's a completely different subject. But in my mind there's still a connection to [No Place To Lie], because its a story about the connection between people and dogs. It's about finding yourself and finding joy and committing and connection. And then the other book is about the alchemy of connection. One thing during this pandemic we've really learnt is how much we need one another, that human connection. I don't know about Isabelle but I've got empty arm syndrome all the time, I just need to be physically close to people. We've kind of learnt what's really important and what matters. We're living in a very divided world, where in the past we've been taught to hate this person or this is right and that's wrong, and we are going to have to find our way back to one another, and we do that by actually being vulnerable and sharing out stories and being willing to be open to other people. I've got lots more to share about that and to think about that and to develop.
No Place To Lie is out now. Where can people buy your book?
It's on Amazon, and you can also buy it as an audio book on Audible (if you've got a spare credit on your Audible account, think of No Place To Lie). You can also buy it from Waterstones and Foyles too.
'We're living in a very divided world, where in the past we've been taught to hate this person or this is right and that's wrong, and we are going to have to find our way back to one another, and we do that by actually being vulnerable and sharing out stories and being willing to be open to other people.'
This interview was originally broadcasted on Sine FM, Wednesday 24th February 2021.