Memoir Author Interview: Cris Beam

by Matilda Butler on February 22, 2012

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #79 – Women’s Memoirs, Author Conversations – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Women’s Memoirs Welcomes Author Cris Beam

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Hi Cris. We’re delighted to have you here today. Before asking you my first question, let me give our readers a little information about your memoir, Mother, Stranger.

Author Cris Beam left her mother’s home at age 14, driven out by a suburban household of hidden chaos and mental illness. Her mother, a distant relative of William Faulkner, told neighbors and family that her daughter had died. The two never saw each other again. Nearly twenty-five years later, after building her own family and happy home life, a lawyer called to say her mother was dead. In this story about the fragility of memory and the complexity of family, Beam decides to look back at her own dark history, and for the secret to her mother’s madness.

Women’s Memoirs Question #1. Cris, you have written a number of books. What caused you to decide to write your memoir? Will you share with our readers both the when and the why you decided it was time to write this story?

memoir, memoir writing, memoir author interview, Cris Beam memoir author interview, storytelling, mother-daughter memoirCris Beam: Some of your readers may identify with my feelings. I always knew, somewhere inside, that I wanted to write my way back to my mother. It was the only way I could find her. But before she died, I was too afraid. I wrote some private, cloaked poems about her, and some fragmented bits of memory prose, but then I’d run. After she died, I felt a new sense of space opening up—both inside me and on the page—and I could enter that space to write.

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Question #2. Your memoir is fairly short and is being marketed as a Kindle Single. I know our readers would like to more about
both of these decisions as they speak to two of the issues memoir writers face — defining the size of the story and marketing/pricing.

Cris Beam: That’s an interesting question, because really, I don’t know if this memoir will ever be “done.” I probably have several more books inside me about my mother; my experience with her drives so much of what I do. But whether those books will literally be about her in the form of memoir, or about some other form of loss in reportage, or whether she’ll peek out of some character in a novel, I can’t tell yet. I do know that I haven’t solved her, and I wrote many, many more pages than appeared in this specific memoir. The length of this memoir was really determined by the publisher, The Atavist, and it was exciting to then try to pare my story down to its leaner, more controlled elements. Placing narrative restrictions on emotional experience is very challenging, but ultimately enlightening; the exercise showed me what mattered most. The pricing was out of my jurisdiction too—that was all set by the publisher.

memoir, memoir writing, journaling, autobiographyWomen’s Memoirs: Question #3. Cris, it seems that your story is one that you buried for a long time, until after your mother’s death. But once you tried to face it, to unravel what happened to both you and your mother, you became involved in a considerable amount of research to gain an understanding and perspective. Do you think the process was healing? Do you think you are more at peace with this part of your past than you would have been if you simply ignored it?

Cris Beam: I don’t know about healing and peace yet; I don’t have enough distance. I do know that a line from Audre Lorde got me through some of the toughest spots in both the writing and the research. She said, “Your silence will not protect you.” For decades, I was silent, and that hadn’t worked out too well. It isolated me from others and from my own internal exploration. Silence wasn’t a shield, it was a wall—and I do feel that wall has come down somewhat.

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing

Cris Beam’s memoir, Mother, Stranger is available as a digital download for the Kindle, iPad, iBooks, and Nook.

storytelling, memoir, memoir writing











Leave a Comment

Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Interviews Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category Writing Prompts Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category StoryMap Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Writing and Healing Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Scrapmoir Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Book Business Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category Memoir Journal Writing Category News Category News Category News Category