Itâ€™s by no means the first time that Janice Galloway has spoken in front of a literary Edinburgh audience, but beneath the dome of the Central Libraryâ€™s Reference Library, walls of books all around her, must surely be among the most refined locations on offer in the Scottish capital. Not that Galloway was alone; on stage with her was David Robinson, literary editor for The Scotsman, and before her was a predominantly female, wine-sipping Edinburgh audience!
Robinson introduced Galloway as â€śone of our finest writersâ€ť and, if there was any doubt about this in the room, it was surely flattened by her impassioned, heart-felt reading from her most recent â€śanti-memoirâ€ť, All Made Up; specifically, the passage when her 17 year old self and then boyfriend were advised on abstinence (until after they were married) by a Catholic GP. â€śContraception. He lined the syllables up like soldiers.â€ť The extract underlined the wit and powerful emotion that underscored a deeper, emotional truth â€” the experience we all share of growing up, of trying to understand the world, of becoming ourselves.
Galloway insists that the process of writing her two volumes of memoirs â€” All Made Up has just joined This Is Not About Me in paperback, with a cover colour scheme based on that of her old school tie â€” is less different than you might think from writing her fiction. Forget diaries, she advised any wannabe memoirists in the room; the process is about your memories, and the necessary reorganising of them into something that makes sense â€” which is not that far from imagining stuff.
There is also the necessity to recreate the people she knew as characters, so that her readers can understand them like she does. On a few occasions Galloway even changes names to protect the innocent, although she was pleasantly surprised to discover that a niece of one much-loved history teacher was sitting in the audience.
Galloway admitted sheâ€™s found the process of writing both memoirs a â€śvery self-revelationary thing to doâ€ť. For instance, while much of the interest in both books has focused on Gallowayâ€™s portrayal of her late mother and elder sister â€” the latter a woman who â€śloved sex but hated menâ€ť, who â€śwas full of energy, andâ€¦ a psychiatric disorder that could have powered the national grid" â€” she has subsequently realised that the absence of her father â€” who died when she was very young â€” had unconsciously seeped into her fiction as well. Simply put, she â€śhas this thing about men not being thereâ€ť.
If that revelation came as a surprise to Galloway â€” though she realises now that it shouldnâ€™t have done â€” itâ€™s fair to say that no one leaving the Central Library after the event could be in any doubt that Galloway herself is an entertaining, impassioned and â€” above all â€” superbly talented writer.