Acclaimed novelist James Lasdun discusses his new memoir Give Me Everything You Have—an account of his experience as a stalking victim—and how writing helped him overcome his nightmare.
Zola: Now that you’ve written a memoir about being stalked, you and your stalker may be publicly linked for years or more. Was that something you struggled with when deciding to write the book?
James Lasdun: Well, we were linked as soon as she started posting malicious things about me on the web. But, yes, publishing the book does set some kind of seal on that. It’s certainly not something I would have ever wanted, but in the end, it seemed more important to publish and take these kinds of consequences than continue suffering in silence!
Zola: Was writing the book cathartic? Has it helped put this nightmare behind you?
JL: It was very cathartic. I started writing the book in the thick of the experience, and it was the first thing that gave me any feeling of relief from it. I don’t know if it has made any difference on the practical level, but it has freed me from the psychological effects. My hope is that the book will resonate with anybody who has gone through an experience—stalking or otherwise—that has tested them to the limit and come out the other side.
Zola: Have you heard anything from your stalker in reaction to the book?
JL: I haven’t heard a word from her. But I have heard from a number of other people she has stalked in the past. I’ve also heard from one of the Iranian-American novelists she accused me of selling her work to. She was also harassing that novelist, who was very pleased that I’d written the book.
Zola: Has this experience put you off teaching fiction workshops? What’s to stop another unstable student from accusing you of plagiarism? And how about your own writing: are you able to fully focus on fiction and poetry again?
JL: It hasn’t put me off. It might have made me a little more wary. I hope not. Teaching writing always involves some kind of emotional connection—the students have a lot at stake and they’re often sharing quite personal material, so it’s never going to be like teaching chemistry. There’s always a risk of things going wrong, though I certainly never imagined things going as wrong as they did in my case! Anyway, yes, I do feel able to move on now and think about other projects—a novel, maybe, perhaps even some poetry…
Zola: Since publication, have you heard from others who’ve been stalked? How have they responded to the book?
JL: Aside from the other people this particular person has stalked or harassed, I’ve heard from an astonishingly large number of people who’ve had some kind of stalking experience. I think the internet has facilitated a certain kind of stalking mentality that might not have had an outlet before. It’s disturbing, and I think very under-reported. Everyone I’ve spoken to has been very much in favor of the book and glad to find they’re not alone. Often they’ve been too upset or embarrassed to mention it to anyone before. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that there’s a minor epidemic going on.
Zola: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to someone being stalked?
JL: Try to get the police involved as soon as you can. Even if there’s nothing they can do right away, it’s important to get a file opened and a place where you can officially document each incident. Also, don’t be embarrassed even if you feel in some way implicated, as I did. Speak out about it. Nobody deserves to be stalked!
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.