A Lover of Books

Guest Post by Rose Edmunds

Book Cover

Rose Edmunds released her latest novel earlier this year.  She has very kindly written a guest post for my blog about how her background as a child of a hoarder led her to write ‘Concealment’.

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My mother is a hoarder.

You’ve seen the TV shows, or read magazine articles. So you all know what that means, or at least you think you do.

That’s a good start.

In the beginning there were no words. As far as I can ascertain, the first major research paper on compulsive hoarding was published in 1987 and it was not until 1996 that the term was fully defined.

As a child of the 1970s, this work lay in the distant future. All I knew was that after my father’s sudden death, our home descended into squalor and filth. And not only were there no words, there was no internet or support groups – only secrecy and shame. I thought we were the only family in the world to live this way and felt sure the mess was my fault – that was what my mother told me after all. Any attempts to clear up were fruitless – my good works were quickly undone. In any case, there’s a limit to what you can achieve if you’re not allowed to throw anything away. It seemed like my whole teenage years were spent making excuses why friends couldn’t come over, and hiding the Big Secret from the rest of the world.

I left home as soon as I could and spent the next twenty odd years frenziedly trying to prove how little my upbringing had affected me. I was the classic workaholic overachiever – a paragon of corporate virtue.

But what you try to suppress has a habit of catching up with you…

The turning point came when my mother fell, broke her hip and her unconventional lifestyle was rather dramatically outed. Predictably, I sprang into action, hired a firm to clear the house and ‘persuaded’ her to move into a retirement apartment with a weekly cleaner. I marvelled at the progress I’d made – it had been so easy to accomplish all this with my mother out of the way and unable to obstruct me. Finally, all sorted!

Except it wasn’t. Her apartment was gradually filling up and I sank into depression. For the first time, I began to confront not only how much my mother’s mental illness had impacted all areas of my life, but also the damage I was doing to myself by pursuing a high-flying career in finance for which I was not entirely suited.

I joined a support group for Children of Hoarders and against all the conventional wisdom, I quit my job to write thrillers set in the business world. My first novel Never Say Sorry was about a BigPharma conspiracy to suppress a cancer cure, and I completed it in little over a year. But I knew there was another book that only I could write, and now I was ready to embark on this more ambitious project…

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that the damage done by my dysfunctional childhood had cut deeper than I’d ever imagined. I had no wish to write a ‘misery memoir’ but began to ponder on what might happen if an outwardly successful child of a hoarder was pitched into a thriller plot, with murder, fraud, and a toxic boss. How would her insecurities hold her back – would her childhood adversity give her extra strength? Out of this germ of an idea my second novel CONCEALMENT was born.

On one level, it’s a corporate thriller, but Amy’s insecurities and the fear of her secret being exposed drive many of her actions and hasten her descent into psychological hell. Although the book is almost entirely fictional, it was extremely painful to lay bare Amy’s emotions, so much so that at one stage I put it aside for six months and began working on a new project. But I found myself inexorably drawn back to Amy and her dilemma. She is a strong character and she kept willing me to bring her adventure to a conclusion!

At this stage, I made some major structural changes, including introducing Amy’s fourteen year-old self as an additional character. Little Amy appears as a hallucination to grown-up Amy and gives the reader further insight into the damage that growing up in a hoarded environment has wreaked on her.

By the way, for those of you who think that growing up in a ‘messy house’ isn’t ‘a big deal’ – believe me, it is. Here is a picture (apologies for non-digital quality) of my mother’s living room taken in 2004. Do you think it’s reasonable for a child to grow up in that?

 

Picture 2

And for comparison purposes, here’s the same room after the intervention.

Picture 1

 

While I cannot blame my mother for an illness which she clearly could not control, I can hold her accountable for not seeking help. On the other hand, this was Britain in the 1970s, and there was little awareness of mental health issues… Perhaps it’s best to simply accept what happened, acknowledge how much it affected me, and to move forward on a neutral basis. In any case, my mother is now suffering from dementia and resides in the ‘Dunhoardin’ care home, where (in a final irony) newspapers are removed from the room daily. She has been the loser in all this, not me. Mental illness has wrecked her life.

It took me three years to write CONCEALMENT, but I don’t regret the time spent. This was the book that I was destined to write, the book that represents the coalescence of my professional, personal and secret lives. I am working on a sequel, which will be more of the thrills and less of the hoarding, and hence should be out about a year from now.

In the meantime, you can check out CONCEALMENT at http://ViewBook.at/Concealment

and find out more about me at my Amazon Author Page or

Website: www.roseedmunds.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoseEdmunds

Facebook: www.facebook.com/roseedmundsauthor

 

 

About Rose Edmunds

Author Picture

Rose Edmunds lives in Brighton with her husband David. She gained a degree in mathematics at the University of Sussex and a PhD from Cardiff University, before qualifying as a chartered accountant and embarking on a successful career advising entrepreneurial businesses together with their owners. She worked for Arthur Andersen and Grant Thornton, before being headhunted to join Deloitte as a partner.

In 2007, after more than 20 years in the business she jumped off the corporate hamster wheel and now writes financial thrillers with a strong ethical theme. Her writing draws heavily on her considerable insight into the business world and in particular the uncomfortable conflict between individual and corporate objectives. Concealment is Rose’s second novel. Her debut thriller, Never Say Sorry, about a Big Pharma cancer cure conspiracy,was published in 2012.

Rose is also a trustee of Brightside, a charity helping young people to access career and education opportunities they might not have believed were available to them.

 

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10 thoughts on “Guest Post by Rose Edmunds

  1. Alex Johnson on said:

    Thank you, Rose, for writing this incredibly poignant post about a condition that probably affects more people than we realise. My father was a hoarder, not to the extent your mother was/is, but when he died the family was overwhelmed by the task in clearing his ‘studio’. He was a fairly successful architect & also painted and did etchings so how can you bring yourself to throw his life’s work away when it has/had value? I still go a bit hot when I think about the dozens of diaries we threw out. I once said I’d write up his war memories but when it came to it I couldn’t read his tiny cramped writing on page after page. By the end, my mother, aged 88, had 2 large skips filled & I know stuff went in them that shouldn’t have.
    Rose – Well done for confronting your past through fiction. I hope it’s given you relief.

    All the best
    Alexx

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  2. Thanks for your kind words Alex. Hoarding is definitely more common than we imagine, and a surprising number of people have ‘come out’ to me since I published the book. I’m sorry for the pain you experienced in dealing with your father’s belongings – I think it’s much harder to get rid of stuff when it reminds you of a lost loved one. I struggled with my sister’s belongings when she died (she was also a minor hoarder) – it felt so disloyal to be dismantling her life. Hats off to you and your mother for completing the task so efficiently at such a difficult time. And at least the things that went on the skips will not be a burden to future generations.
    Best wishes Rose x

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  3. Terry Tyler on said:

    Fascinating, and well done for being brave enough to share that!

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  4. Pingback: Concealment by Rose Edmunds | Lizannelloyd

  5. Excellent post Rose, this aspect of your life is extremely well written about in Concealment. I didn’t know you had come from that background until the end but it added a fascinating edge to the book. I imagine writing the book was cathartic for you.

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  6. Thanks Georgia and yes – writing the book certainly was cathartic! I’m pleased you enjoyed reading it.

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  7. How very fascinating and poignant, Rose, this interested me greatly on a few different levels.

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  8. Thanks Julia – glad that it resonated with you!

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  9. Gosh! I am coming to the conclusion that behind every writer is a darn weird childhood! My mother was a depressive who should never have had kids (she told us). …Yours hoarded stuff, mine hoarded grievances and spite. At least you could clear out her stuff. I had to clear out. And sever all contact. Nut- hey…we became writers…telling our ‘stories’ in our own ways.

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