In the events I did while in France, it was common for people not just to ask me if The Champion’s New Clothes/Le Champion Nu is autobiographical, but to seem to want it to be. (It isn’t.)
My Scottish and American novels have one thing in common: they’re the stories of people and places, not a person, and not this person. It’s currently fashionable to talk about “the right to tell your own story” — but what if, like me, you don’t want to tell your own story, because you don’t find it interesting? And “the right to tell your own story” isn’t a right, because it’s dependent on people being interested in listening to the story you’re telling. Otherwise, you’re not telling a story, just talking to yourself, and even you might not be listening.
“A principal rule for writers, and especially those who want to describe their own sensations, is not to believe that their doing so indicates they possess a special disposition of nature in this respect. Others can perhaps do it just as well as you can. Only they do not make a business of it, because it seems to them silly to publicise such things.”
“Write what you know” is a maxim preached to aspiring writers.
I get emails from single fathers who tell me The Book of Man captured their experience. I have no children. I get emails from people who’ve been hospitalised for depression saying the same thing about the same book. I have never been depressed, and when I wrote that book I had never been hospitalised.