This is my interview with R.P. Lenny, author of the novella The Truth in my Lies. This novella has a unique and interesting style, and I was intrigued to see the process it took to write and create it. With visceral scenes and unnerving themes, this book is something which delves into deep and complex ideas all the while making you question the way you have perceived things in the past. Read my spoiler-free review of The Truth in my Lies before reading this interview if you want to see what I thought of it, and read this interview to try and understand some of how it was thought-up and created! I hope you enjoy, and if you would like to buy yourself a copy of R.P. Lenney’s book, then you can buy one here.
1. What first inspired you to write The Truth in My Lies?
The original concept was inspired by my desire to create something different. I was inspired by a friend of mines drag persona (A nun from the church of the bloody big bottom). I combined this character idea with an idea I had about mental health. I was fascinated by Schizophrenia and how there was no representation accurately in the media. Schizophrenia is mainly about blurred reality rather than split personality disorder. I wanted to place a reader in the mind of a schizophrenic and have a reader not understand what’s real and what’s not.
2. Did you have fixed idea for the plot, or did it materialise as you were writing it?
I had the entire plot outlined in a note on my phone! Haha! It was a really odd scenario where I was in a long car journey and started writing notes. I was then on a roll and within 6 hours I had the entire plot including all the little metaphors and how they link together all noted in about 2000 words. The writing process meant that I was able to materialise the relationships between the characters and develop the narrative a bit more. The Primrose motif wasn’t added in until the editing process and the idea that the descriptions mirror seasons so that within the 16 chapters it details one year.
3. The protagonist comes across as a little unstable – is this what you intended?
It is! The idea was to place the reader directly in the mind of a schizophrenic. A few key themes that I wanted to bring to the novella was the idea of reality being so blurred that the readers has to infer as to what is real and what the protagonist is imagining. Another was the idea of identity. Only characters who are hallucinations are named, hence why the Doctor and the protagonist are not named. The key to keeping gender private was also so that anyone is able to relate. Some people may feel comfortable with the doctor being a man which then is flipped at the end when she is revealed as the protagonists mother. Equally, some manage to infer the motherly role through conversations and moments where the doctor cries.
4. Why did you choose to make the novella as graphic and visceral as it is?
I wanted it to feel horribly real. If the novella was as graphic as things really are then it adds a depth to it that I never see in other literature. I don’t believe in sugar coating especially as I was exploring Schizophrenia, I didn’t want to undermine this by making it all perfect. The scenes with Gracie and her gruesome backstory is because Gracie isn’t real. Her story is entirely fabricated by the protagonist but, as with everything in the novella, it is all metaphorical for something which I’ll leave to the reader to decide. Some of the more gruesome moments like the school attack and the fight between the sister and the protagonist at the end are particularly gruesome purely because they should be. This is a protagonist who is hyper-sensitive and socially difficult. Therefore as they describe the events they believed they witnessed they would see no issue with inputting every fine detail.
5. What do you think the Doctor represented in the book? Is he a metaphor for something bigger?
So the doctor is ultimately the mother of the protagonist. A mother who was unable to look after their child but has since bettered herself and now is trying to help their mentally disturbed child. This also developed with the narrative as it gave the novella a character that could be an antagonist while also a hero. This is because they are painted as evil by the sister but half way through the doctor takes the protagonist to a hospital and helps treat them. The metaphor here being that what we think we know and trust isn’t always right. Every good has an equal. The doctor is also a controversial saviour as at the end of the novel the doctor assists the protagonist in their suicide, which I wanted readers to decide their own ethical beliefs on. Was this a mother who knew their child had no quality of life and so found a way to happily help then out. Or was this a selfish mother who couldn’t be bothered to deal with the issue and so murdered their only child. I wanted this to be something for people to reread the book and figure out their own ideas of the doctor and what they believe.
6. Did you intent your novel to be unique from ‘standard’ novels? Or is this something which happened coincidentally?
I love this question, it is something that I had in mind right from the start. Honestly, I wanted to create something to stick up against English literature teachers and say “Analyse that!”. We all know the classic, ‘the curtains are blue to represent sadness… No the author just said they were blue!’ well with The Truth In My Lies EVERYTHING has a metaphorical meaning and everything can be analysed. Long story short, I wanted to make something to be analysed and I wanted to make something that can be interpreted in many different ways. I’ve realised there’s many layers to the book which I didn’t intend on. There’s the layer of base value plot, the layer of each chapter being a statement on something in society and awkwardly, the layer how it is slightly autobiographical.
7. Convince someone why they should read The Truth in My Lies
Expand your mind. The truth in my Lies will force you to consider things you believe to be normal and make you question why it’s normal. It drags you out of your comfort zone and makes you look at your routine life and say, why is my life like that. It is a book to be enjoyed but also to inspire. All this inside a story that will shock you, scare you and suprise you.
8. Are you writing anything else?
I am working on a conventional novel (not a stream of consciousness); a horror mystery about children on holiday who go missing and a detective that is certain that a few witness statements who mention “The Blue Man” proves they are all connected.
I also have another project which is experimental about a protagonist called Ellis where the book is narrated by Ellis in the third person. It also features poetry by Ellis.