This morning I read this article on the BBC News; Pola Kinski, daughter of deceased actor Klaus Kinski and older sister of actress Nastassja Kinski, has revealed that her father sexually abused her from the time she was five until she was nineteen years old. Pola, now sixty and also an actress, wrote her autobiography Kindermund in part to silence the hero worship still lauded upon her father. After reading the BBC’s piece, I dug further, a dull weary ache rising within my chest; the Alvin’s Farm series is based upon one woman’s survival of sexual abuse.
In writing Alvin’s Farm, I wanted to explore my rural 1970s youth, also how alcohol affected my childhood. What Jenny Cope suffered is pure fiction, but as usual, I crept inside her head, wanting to be as true to that character as I possibly could. The same went for the rest of the cast; a writer assumes many personas; male and female, young and old, troubled and carefree. When I started the last three novels of the series, more travails were mined, but sexual abuse continued as one of the themes. Not that Jenny was again in danger, but a young woman close to her. Having never been in that situation, I used my imagination, feeling slightly… Here is where being a writer gets tricky; I abhor brutality, but without conflict, there is no story. One of the characters in the last three books was assaulted from the time she was five, the same age as Pola Kinski. I dithered when deciding that specific fact; it’s fiction, yet it represents what does occur. Children are harmed, which turns my stomach, still I write about it. Jenny learns that Dana was just a small child when her world came crashing to her feet.
While my novels often get close to the bone, I have yet to spill my own blood on a document. Using fiction to alleviate anything that continues to trouble, I write around old hurts, slathering the whole simmering mess in love. Love cures a plethora of ills, love and time and courage; Pola Kinski wrote her book not only to shed light on her father’s despicable actions, but to provide hope to those suffering in similar ways. Raw upheaval seems to overwhelm, but bravery exists, uplifting and strengthening. Comprehension leads to empathy, allowing those who have been intimidated and harmed to realize a new day awaits. Jenny Cope ran for twelve years, trying to suppress what had stolen her childhood. She landed in a small Oregon village where a slow but special man told her she was worthy, she was loved. It took me years to realize I wasn’t insignificant, that my life held value. Writing Jenny’s story was harrowing. It was also empowering; given the right support and affection, trauma can be overcome. I wish for Pola Kinski and others like her continued courage in facing what pains. And a lasting peace knowing those incidents are truly in the past.