About the author
Todd Alexander has been writing for over twenty years. His work has been published in magazines and periodicals and his first novel, Pictures of Us, was published in 2006, and Tom Houghton was published in 2015. How to Buy and Sell on eBay.com.au has sold in excess of 30,000 copies. In 2010, his advanced guide to eBay, How to Make Money on eBay was published, followed by Why Pay Retail (2011), Get Your Business Online. . . Now! and Every Day Internet at Any Age (both in 2012), The New eBay (2013) and Check 100: Tips for a Successful eBay Business (2014). He lives in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales with his partner where they run a boutique vineyard and accommodation business, Block Eight.
Words // Todd Alexander
All writing is a form of self-reflection but I think there’s a stark difference between writing fiction and writing memoir. In fiction, you never have to admit to how much is real, or inspired by your own thoughts or experiences. You can observe people and situations but mask them creatively or you can invent something out of thin air – the process can be freeing and for me, often serves as a kind of therapy. My fictional characters often get the chance to live experiences that I never have, or make choices I wish I had (or hadn’t) made and sometimes be with people I’ve only ever dreamed about!
Memoir is an entirely different beast. The narrative voice necessarily needs to be your own. With fiction, the narrative can be an independent storyteller’s but with memoir you really need to take a long hard look at yourself, your world views, your experiences and your interactions with others (both human and animal, in my case). In many ways, it’s weird committing your life to paper, knowing it will be viewed publicly and will be out there for eternity. At the outset, I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to sugarcoat my own personality / character within the book. I know I’m flawed in a multitude of ways, but if you’re going to write your memoir then I believe you have a responsibility to do it warts and all.
When you write about your own life, covering the experiences is the easiest part. You’re just relaying facts. It gets trickier when you need to convey your motivations, fears, hopes and desires, because this is the essence of who you are as a human being. I find it much easier to embrace my more challenging character traits by being bold and upfront about them, then taking the piss out of myself before any else gets the chance! I don’t think I could ever write a memoir without comedy for that very reason.
Other aspects of the book were much more difficult to write – my body image issues, financial stresses, my role as partner and my feelings about my mother’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, for example. I’ll be honest and say these are topics I‘ve never really discussed before, with anyone other than my partner Jeff, so writing about them not only took guts but also made me appreciate that forty odd years of experience have made me the person I am today and there is no shame in admitting to being scared, crying, having feelings of self-disgust or realising the absurdity of everyday life like the time I fried chicken balls in our newly renovated apartment (you’ll just have to read the book to know more about that).
Most of all, however, writing Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine And A Pig Called Helga is a celebration of the people who have helped make me who I am, who have been there for me regardless of my sometimes questionable behaviour and without whose friendship and support I doubt I’d have survived my awkward years. Oh, and it’s also a celebration of my four legged and feathered friends and the fact that I don’t really care if you think me kissing my pig is strange.