How I Began Writing and Stopped Lying (Plus: Giveaway!)

photo by kygp

Therese here. Please welcome returning guest Randy Susan Meyers, author of the bestselling novel The Murderer’s Daughters and her latest book, out this past week, The Comfort of Lies.

Because of ongoing negotiations between Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster, Randy’s novel isn’t on display in Barnes and Noble stores -a loss of visibility that can hurt a book’s sales potential. In the spirit of helping a fellow writer, WU will be sponsoring a giveaway today. Leave a comment on Randy’s post for a chance to win a copy of her novel. In two days time, we’ll randomly chose a winner (U.S. or Canada only, please). Even if you don’t win, we hope you’ll support this book by buying a copy yourself and/or helping to spread the word about this book. Thank you!

What’s The Comfort of Lies about?

Three Mothers. Two Fathers. One Child.

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption. Now, she’s trying to connect with her lost daughter and former lover.

Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she’s questioning whether she’s cut out for the role of wife and mother.

Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a loving family, a solid marriage, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He’d promised he’d never stray again and she trusted him. But that was before she knew about the baby.

Now, when Juliette intercepts a letter containing photos meant for Nathan, her world crumbles again. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he’s kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. Her quest leads to Caroline and Tia and before long, the women are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted.

I’m so pleased Randy is with us today to talk about the fine line between lying and storytelling. Enjoy!

How I Began Writing and (almost) Stopped Lying

My sister and I are great liars. World-class liars. Maybe we were born with the trait. After all, our paternal grandmother’s top hobby was shoplifting. Brooklyn-born Great-Aunt Sally (Jewish, like the rest of the family) pretended she was Catholic and French—and went to the Sorbonne. She even spoke English with a Gallic lilt.  A great-uncle took a new identity—and nobody knows why.

Whatever side of the family you examine, Jill and I were born for fabrication. In childhood we had all the appropriate Psych 101 lying factors: substance abuse, instability, disappearing act—lying was our safest course of action. In a world of quick slaps and slow forgiveness, our motto was ‘admit nothing.’

“No, we didn’t break the lamp!” (We did. And then precariously glued the pieces together, shrugging when our mother barely touched it after it shattered.)

“Why would I take your shirt, Mom?”  (Because I wanted to wear it.)

“I didn’t cut school! They’re crazy.”  (Yes, the school secretary was crazy all 22 times that term.

An absorbing and layered drama that explores the complexities of infidelity, forgiveness, and family.”
Booklist

Eventually, I became so frightened of the consequences of upsetting my family— eventually, of angering anybody—that if I spoke, a lie was as likely as the truth. Lying made for an easier world. For a time it made my first marriage perfect (“Everything is wonderful—really!”) and kept me from examining the irrational choice I made to marry at nineteen. I wanted a flawless marriage, however no marriage is unflawed, so for ten years I fibbed our relationship into an idyll. By the time I choked out some truth to my now ex-husband, it was too late to revive anything.

Fear of truth was deeply ingrained. (As a little girl, I’d lull myself to sleep with imaginary stories of lives I pretended to live, including my fantasy that my true parents were the president and his wife, who’d placed me in this Brooklyn home to test my mettle.) I went from fear of facing my mother’s wrath, to fear of facing a spouse’s wrath, to fear of facing boyfriend-employer-friend-sister-everyone-in-the-world’s wrath. My dread of conflict lay so deep that I’d lie about any situation if it kept the peace. I didn’t shift blame—often I’d take unwarranted culpability to avoid a scene or, most of all, to avoid someone’s anger. Anger—anyone’s anger—seemed akin to the purest distillation of danger.

As I got older, lying started to seem a habit without sense. Nobody stood over me with a punishment-ready belt anymore. I began examining the practice of lying. I started wondering why I lied, when the truth was perfectly acceptable.

What I said: No, that shirt isn’t new. I got it on sale three months ago. I showed you!

What I could and should have said: Yes, that shirt is new. No, it wasn’t on sale.

I began examining the meaning of truth—my search engendered by a marriage to a man who didn’t want to scare me, and who wasn’t frightened of my truth, and a job working with batterers, criminals, for whom lying was akin to breathing. In my study of lying, I separated social lies, meaningless lies, and awful lies. When someone asks you if they look fat or old, or if the haircut they just got looks okay, they’re rarely looking for unvarnished truth—they want reassurance. And surely one’s relationship with the person should presage the answer to whether you should lie or be truthful. For instance, I could count on my now husband to tell the truth with kindness. It was a treat (if sometimes shocking) to be able to rely on someone’s truth 100% of the time, and not to be frightened of what I’d hear.

The abusive men with whom I’d worked (for ten years) claimed their abusive behavior was simply ‘being truthful’: “But she is fat, so why shouldn’t I tell her, right?” From them I learned that truth isn’t always right, not when it’s used as a weapon. I thought about William Blake, who wrote, “A truth that’s told with bad intent. Beats all the lies you can invent.” 

I began examining whether telling lies ever makes sense. (Exploring lies is the backbone of my new book, The Comfort of Lies, the lies we tell ourselves to feel better, and the lies we think are for the protection of others, but which serve to hide our darker side.)

Why and when do people lie? We lie for social reasons; because we grew up in homes where only lying made life bearable; because we’re afraid to tell the truth; because we are too weak to access the truth; because we lack courage; because we are mean; because we are selfish; because we think we are being kind.

Sometimes lying is a kindness. Other times it’s a true sin. I think, in the end, what good people pray for is the wisdom to know the difference and to be self-honest about one’s intent.

Finally, examining lies brought home an enormous truth.

I didn’t have to lie anymore.

I was safe.

I was no longer seven years old. No one will hit me, no one will get drunk, no one will scream in my face, and no one will punish me with silence. (And if they do any of those things, I can walk away.)

I was safe.

Meyers’ women resonate as strong, complicated and conflicted, and the writing flows effortlessly in this sweet yet sassy novel about love, women and motherhood. . .the characters crackle with both intelligence and wit.”
—Kirkus Reviews

My husband doesn’t even know how to lie, so we virtually have a mixed marriage. Being with him has been a lesson in learning that though my default is lying—there’s no reason for me to use that go-to. I’ve learned that telling the truth can be comforting. Amazing. He’s learned that he has an in-house liar when he needs a social nicety fib. It’s nice to bring something to the marriage table.

After writing two novels where falsehoods have a leading role, in the end, I could only conclude that the “comfort of lies” is sometimes a necessary evil, but is usually thin consolation indeed. Living a life that doesn’t require lying is a luxury. Truth is where I find my comfort these days. Being able to tell it, being able to hear it, and most of all, being in a life surrounded by reality.

And now I had a place to put my passion for duplicity. I could take all that skill, all those years of perfecting dishonesty, and put it into my work. Writing novels was where I could lie, lie, and then lie some more. I could even get paid for lying! I could not only take whatever traumatic experiences fed my lifetime of fibs, I could blow those occurrences into bigger, worse, ever-more dramatic happenings.

Finally, I had a home for my practice of deceit; I could leave a life of the comfort of lies, and instead weave them into novels.

Readers, you can learn more about Randy and her new novel, The Comfort of Lies, on her website, and by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

And please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into a random drawing for one of Randy’s books. Please help us to spread the word over social media, too; this is for a very worthy cause. Thanks, WU’ers!

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m so excited that I already have my copy of this book (TBR soon!), but I promise, should I win, I’ll give it to a very-deserving, non-writer friend! (Hoping for a quick resolution w/ B&N negotiations!)

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  2. says

    Randy,
    Congratulations on your new novel. Lying plays a key role in every good family saga. In my own work, the story centers not on lying, but not telling family secrets that cause greater rifts in the long run than coming clean. We lie or hide secrets because we don’t want to hurt people, but most of the time we end up hurting people even more. Your story sounds intriguing. I will check it out. Thanks for this insightful post.

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  3. Donna Warner says

    Lying. Needing that defense. So much is lost when we can’t face the truth. Looking forward to the novel.

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  4. says

    Randy, I have to say I haven’t read your work before, but this one sounds intriguing. So very sorry about the Barnes & Noble thing, and I hope it gets settled (favorably for you) soon.
    Your post about lying reminds me of the title of one of my favorite books on writing: Lawrence Block’s TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT.
    Thanks again for a great post, and congratulations on the new novel.

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  5. Anne Civitano says

    What a great post. Thanks for these thoughtful revelations, which have given me so much to think about on so many levels (story, character, self). I look forward to your book, but I’d also love to read your memoir. Thanks for the fascinating peek into what is obviously a life full of stories and astonishing reflection.

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  6. says

    Hope the disbute is settled quickly. Really enjoyed your article. I’m amazing by all the liars I know. They are everywhere. Interesting to see that it was a safety issue with you. I wish you all the best with your new book and all the best, period.

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  7. says

    Thanks for your post. I hope the situation with B&N works itself out soon and in your favor. In the meantime, I’ll pop out and pick up a copy of what sounds like a really interesting book.

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  8. Hope Benson says

    What a great article! I found alot of myself in the lying as a habit truths you spoke. I have often wondered of my lying so easily and so well is what made me the writer I am today.

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  9. Charlotte Hunter says

    Terrific post. And a surprise. I started reading with barely a hope of finding anything new or heart-grabbing. What I found, however, was a slice of myself, presented in a clarity remarkable for such a short venue. I still don’t fully understand why I grew up a default liar, but I remember that, during college, I began to feel as though I was in danger of believing the lies I conjured. A leap into therapy helped, and after much work I began to realize that freedom about which Mark Twain: ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t need to remember anything.’ Lying remains my default, however, but now I funnel my vast capacity for untruths into fiction, creating murderers who appear to be sterling citizens, jerks who really aren’t all that bad, clues that are red herrings, and so on.

    Thanks for the post. I shall be looking for your book, and I trust the dispute with B&N will soon be over and your book prominently displayed.

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  10. Aviva Siegel says

    Wow. what a powerful post about your own truths (and lies). Made me think about myself too. I can’t wait to read your new book!!

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  11. says

    Great post! Congrats on the new book, and I hope everything with B&N gets resolved soon. It aggravates me to no end that so much of a writer’s success is tied into these chain bookstores.

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  12. says

    Sounds like such an interesting book Randy. Sorry about the delay with B & N…it’ll come through soon for you:)

    I totally relate to what you said about your default being ‘lying.’ Sometimes the lies and the truth can get mixed up and then I’ve found myself in a pickle ;( Look forward to reading your book :-)

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  13. says

    Randy, I must have this book! I have a nephew who is a world-class liar. Many of his deceptions are so frightening that it makes it dangerous to love him. But I never thought of his lying as his comfort.

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  14. says

    I have bought 10 copies of this lovely book and given them to men in prison. However I lost my job as a hospice attendant before I bought a copy for myself. If I win I will read it, post glowing reviews on all my social media and organize a boycott of Barnes and Noble with all my homeless friends!

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  15. Jane Cook says

    What an excellent story, Randy! I too lived in a home where a lie saved you from abuse, and it is indeed a hard habit to break. Training yourself to a new habit can be done; for me, it was when I was finally grown and alone, and no longer accountable to anyone but myself, and also content to remain that way of my own choice.

    I very much look forward to reading this book. Thank you.

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  16. Anji says

    Beautiful and inspiring post, Randy. I can’t wait to read THE COMFORT OF LIES. Thanks for being you and sharing your stories!

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  17. Kathy says

    I am looking forward to getting a copy of this book to read!!! Congrats on the great reviews that I’ve seen!!! Keep up the good work!!

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  18. Dorothy Dorie DeMaria says

    I look forward to reading both of thes books and don’t understand Barnes and Nobles not displaying them in their stores. With downloadable books they should do everything possible to keep their stores interesting places to browse.

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  19. Mike M. says

    Congratulations on the new book! It’s nice to know that there are liars among us using their talents for good instead of evil. I, too, am a reformed liar and I am inspired by your accomplishment, kudos to you.

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  20. says

    Such a fascinating reflection, and this sounds like a wonderful book! Can’t wait to read it! I laughed out loud when you mentioned the skill you bring to your marriage of being able to tell polite “social lies.” :)

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  21. says

    the book sounds like a really good read. I too come from a family of liars, and my WIP is about a family who doesn’t exactly lie outright, but lies by omission. It also has grave consequences. Hope your book holdups resolve soon.

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  22. says

    I laughed at your paragraph about the mixed marriage. A desire for honesty–sometimes overdone–is something my husband and I both bring to the table, but he’s taught me a great deal about safety. I’m eternally grateful.

    I’m very sorry to hear about the turf wars and am going to make noise about your book on social media. Hope it’s resolved soon!

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  23. says

    Ahhh, how we come to our storytelling. How we learn to transform the things that no longer serve us in one context into a strength in another. Nicely said.

    Wishing you the best with your novels, and a fast resolution of the crunch between SS and B&N.

    Can’t wait to read your books.

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  24. says

    Fascinating.
    I’ve never been much of a liar (or rather, not a very good one, so I’ve pretty much given up) but I tend to avoid hard situations by not getting involved. And I’m not sure that’s any better than lying.

    Your book sounds great, and I’ll definitely be picking it up :)

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  25. Sonny says

    Lying hides shame brought by poor choices and enduring the consequences. I look forward to reading this book and will post it on my FB wall. Thanks for your honesty here.

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  26. Kathleen says

    I loved that post! I am so looking forward to reading this book. Lies have been a secret part of my life my whole life and I’m thinking this is book is going to be an eye opening experience and comforting companion for me. Thanks

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  27. says

    Boy, are you brave, Randy!

    Your candor in revealing the role of lying in your life inspires me to be more truthful in my own writing, and to quit my “lies of omission.” Those lies I’ve told by pretending I’m not offended when I am, for example. (My stomach’s churning as a result of just writing that—telling the truth ain’t easy.)

    Good luck with your book, and a quick and positive outcome to the B&N negotiations.

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    • Carla Pagani says

      As an older person, I find I do much more reflection , have time now. Happy with most of my life which was full of hard things but they all taught me something very special about life, about me and how the world treats you and you the world. Hardship truly is a gift, if only you unwrap it. I am very anxious to read your new book and to be honest, it will be the first time I will have read your works. I will look for other books you.have written and read them. You gave certainly peeked MM interest, thank you so very much. Bless you

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  28. says

    Wonderful post. It is so uplifting when people can talk with openness about things that the world labels as “shameful”. It’s one of the great gifts of writers/writing — being able to shine light on places that are dark (or only feel dark). The more we open, the more we soften.

    I hope the B&N/S&S debacle resolves itself soon.

    :-)

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  29. says

    I hope the B&N problem works out. Is there a way to buy your book?

    Everyone discovers lies if they look closely. As the child of one mother, two fathers, two possible stepmothers and 8 children from 5 different relationships I can relate. It took a lot of lies to cover that all up, and that is where the tag line “Living Their Lie” came from.

    Good Luck. Sounds like a great book.

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  30. says

    One marvelous post.
    It takes courage to exam a deep-seeded habit, even more to loosen the grip you have on it in order to change. Your transformation is an inspiration. Best Wishes on your journey and with your new book. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing, Randy.

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  31. says

    I really enjoyed this post. It’s funny – as kids, we’re taught to tell the truth, but often, as adults, when we do tell the truth, no one wants to hear it.

    Oh, and I’ve got your book on my TBR list already. :)

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  32. says

    Thank you for your honesty here. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    Good luck with the book. I’m looking forward to it.

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  33. says

    I already have the book and loved it! I love your honesty here. I own a creative and marketing firm so I wouldn’t say lying comes easily, but I definitely can spin a promotional line in no time flat and make it sound convincing. xo

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  34. says

    I too was an accomplished liar as a child and teenager. I don’t know why, as there was no punitive parent in my life. But I realized at some point what I was doing and resolved to stop. Your book sounds as though it will be a fascinating read!

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  35. says

    I come from a long line of embellishers and over dramatizers. As a kid, I didn’t tell many blatant little lies, but I certainly made up some involved stories, many of which adults bought.

    Congrats on the book!

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  36. Hailey says

    Randy,

    The Comfort of Lies looks like such a good read. I’m currently reading The Murderer’s Daughters and am liking it very much. Your latest reminds me of what Diane Chamberlain writes. I would very much love to win a copy of this book.

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  37. says

    Really interesting post, and what sounds like a great book! I agree that writing is a pretty harmless vehicle for lying; yet, fiction so often reveals a universal truth. Thanks for the thoughts!

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  38. says

    Sorry you have not reached an aggreement B&N, but looking forward to reading your book, hoping it would be soon. I would love to win one of your books. That probably won’t happen though.
    Hope you get everyhing settled soon.

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  39. Sabrina-Kate Eryou says

    I actually already read this book but an ecopy so I since I loved it, I would love to have an actual physical copy!

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  40. Nova C. says

    I grew up in a family with 7 kids; I am the 6th out of 7. I am sure we all lied to cover each other’s butts when we did something we shouldn’t have. I have 4 kids, so I know they have done their fair share of telling tales. I know my daughter likes to embellish the truth; guess it is a girl drama thing.
    This book sounds good. It will be added to my TBR list!

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