Often memoir authors look back at their lives only to find a lot of missing pieces. Memory takes us only so far, especially in a long life. Write My Memoirs advises everyone to keep a diary—you never know when you might decide to write your life story, and a diary makes the process not only much easier but also more accurate.
With no diary to rely upon, you may end up doing research. It’s common for memoir authors to visit cities where they once lived, request public records involving themselves and their family, and pore over newspaper clippings offering facts and figures pertinent to the story.
When you author a biography, which Write My Memoirs is also happy to help you craft and publish, you don’t even have your own memories to source. Maybe the person about whom you’re writing is alive and, even if that’s not the case, you may find people who knew the person and are willing to speak with you. Or you could be writing about someone whose life span is too long ago for that. In either case, you’ll probably need to pursue independent research and original reporting in order to write a biography.
A friend of Write My Memoirs told us about her cousin, Debbie Taussig-Boehner, who found out firsthand how much research it takes to flesh out a story. In her case, it was more of a mystery, even though it was about her own father, Vladimir George Taussig. It started with a simple suitcase Taussig-Boehner and her sister took possession of when Taussig died. For decades that followed, neither of the sisters opened the suitcase. Finally, looking for something to do in her early retirement, Taussig-Boehner decided to crack open the suitcase and have a look inside. From that moment on, her retirement would not be boring.
Fleshing Out a Mystery
Emptying the deteriorating suitcase, Taussig-Boehner discovered letters, pictures and artifacts. There were matchbooks from restaurants and government reports. Soon a story emerged. Her father had grown up in what was then Czechoslovakia and spent time in England and China before settling in the United States. He led an exciting life filled with adventures and political intrigue, plus he was a bit of a playboy.
For Taussig-Boehner, it became an irresistible call to flesh out the entire saga. Following the breadcrumbs led her to New York, Montreal, Prague and Shanghai. She met people who could fill in some blanks and identify people in photos. After two years of research, Taussig-Boehner brought in a young writer, Lauren Housman, to help her put together the narrative. By then she had the information organized and knew she had a lively tale. The co-authors then published their book, The Suitcase: The Life and Times of Captain X.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much information you still have to gather, know that you’re not alone. Many authors spend months or years ferreting out the facts. Everyone says the writing is the hard part, but it’s only one of the components. Good research produces true-life, compelling stories. Every life may not be as fascinating as Taussig’s, but to family and friends it will be just as interesting when it’s accurate and rich in detail.