Author August: Dawn Kurtagich – Psychologically Sinister: What’s in a Diary?

Author August- Dawn Kurtagich Psychologically Sinister- What’s in a Diary-

To view all guest author posts so far and for a chance to win a £40 Foyles Giftcard visit the Author August Page.

Dawn Kurtagich talks about how being a diarist contributes to her writing methodology.

My name is Dawn Kurtagich, and I wrote these books:

The Creeper Man The Dead House

Both of them are, at their core, about broken girls. About the darkness we bring upon ourselves, as well as the darkness already within us. Both Kaitlyn (The Dead House) and Silla (The Creeper Man) are hiding things from themselves, and both of them use the same tool to express it: Their diaries.

I’ve been a diarist since I was around eleven. Possibly younger, though I found it difficult to write neatly or clearly for a long time. For some reason, a little dyslexic girl found it calming to capture moments of her day and later, to capture her feelings about those moments. Strawberry ice cream is a very important business, as are butterflies, pesky African bees and giant baboon spiders.

During more difficult times, I tended to rely on my diary the most. I would put the truth in it so that I could get it out of my head and away on the page. I would admit that I felt scared or alone or angry so that I didn’t need to feel it quite so strongly inside. I didn’t think about the possibility of anyone reading it—no one would. It was sacred.

Diaries have the power to let us be honest. When we have such complete faith in the pages of a book, and the security of knowing it is only for us to see, we tend to admit things, acknowledge things, and maybe rage about things that would otherwise poison our thoughts. It allows us to be rid of them. And later it allows us to see connections we couldn’t see in the moment.

I found my sixteen year-old self’s diary recently, and had a little read to see what kind of melodrama I was writing about back then.

Mommy made us a delicious supper, but I felt really sick after eating it and I threw up. Feel really bad. Really tired, so going to go to bed.”

I went cold.

I talk about my transplant story here, so I won’t talk about it again. But going back to that diary made me see that I was sick a lot longer than I thought I was. I flipped back further—more nausea, more fatigue. I wasn’t writing about trivialities—I was leaving my future self a trail.

For Kaitlyn, she was also leaving herself a trail, if only she had known it. She was a broken girl with the veneer of a strong one, but she was wholly honest when writing in her diary, which she eventually actualized into “Dee”. Silla too, is honest, in a way. She may lie to herself, but the truth still bleeds out.

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Diaries have always been tools to aid the diarist. But facing that truth, especially in the case of girls like Kaitlyn and Silla can be sinister. Diaries provide us with the innermost thoughts and workings of our characters—maybe even plans.

For authors, diaries are an invaluable tool. Not only in terms of writing diary entries into their fiction for their readers to better understand their characters, but for the authors to better understand them too. Their readers and their layers, their plot and their plan for the book, the links. I keep my writing diary along with my regular diary because looking back lets me see patterns in the plot, just as it has allowed me to see patterns in my life.

It’s no secret, since I’ve mentioned it many times in various interviews, that I write diaries as my characters during the earliest phases of writing a book. I do this to get into their heads. I do it to ask questions, to find their little secrets, to learn what they really care about. Trust me: It works every time.

And let’s not forget the most powerful use of a diary: To capture our joys! Our best selves, our greatest days. I remember getting back to our hotel room after my husband proposed to me. The first thing I did was pull out my diary and write in huge calligraphy along the top:

I’m ENGAGED!!!”

Opening that page with all of the excited scribbling, little doodles of the day and my utter joy in ink brings it back to me every single time. So profound, so intense. It’s a time portal.

A notebook can be a magical thing, happy bananas. A lovely, powerful, terrifying thing that can thrust us back in time, can plunge us into the oceanic dreams of our futures, and can leave us a trail for the study of our lives.

Why not give it a go if you haven’t already? Why don’t you see just how much you can scare yourself, excite yourself, be honest with yourself—and then do the same to your characters.

Dawn, out!

Why not follow me on twitter, or facebook, instagram or youtube or subscribe to my newsletter to see what I’m up to?

Or you could just stop by www.dawnkurtagich.com and say “hello!”.

My personal thanks to Dawn for taking part in Author August!

To view all guest author posts so far and for a chance to win a £40 Foyles Giftcard visit the Author August Page.

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