Jeannette Walls Answers Your Questions

That's a really good question, Janice, and if you're considering writing about your life, I'm guessing that you've been grappling with those issues yourself. The toughest part of writing "The Glass Castle" was trying to be fair to everyone, not to condemn the people around me, but not whitewash the story either -- and to tell the truth without intruding too much on their lives. It's one thing to reveal my own secrets; it's another to reveal those of the people around me. For that reason, I decided cut a lot about my kid sister that was originally in the book. My mother has actually been great. She's taken issue with some of the things I wrote, but not many, and she's completely supportive of it. My older sister was very ambivalent about the book. She finds the past much more painful than I do, but ultimately, she felt that I should just go ahead and write it. She told me, however, that she wasn't going to read it because she didn't want to relive it. Finally, largely at mom's urging, she quite recently decided to read it. (Mom told her, "You'll like it. You come across as a hero.") She's only read about 100 pages, but she told me that so far she loves it.

15. Michele Redman, of Long Island, N.Y., writes:

Why now did you decide to share your story with the world? What did you hope to gain? What did you learn about yourself now that you've made a success out of your life? Now that you've disclosed your personal life do you feel liberated and/or more vulnerable?

Jeannette responds:

Gosh, these are all really good questions. I'd tried to tell my story a number of times. I wrote the first version of this book when I was about 19. I hammered out more than 200 pages on a weekend, then threw it in the garbage. I made several other attempts, and never even read what I wrote before I trashed them all. Then, there was that conversation I had with my mother that was mentioned in the "Primetime Live" piece, when I asked her: What am I supposed to tell people when they ask about you? And she said: "Tell them the truth." It seemed so simple. Yet it was so incredibly complex. If there was one deciding factor that made me write "The Glass Castle," it was my husband, John Taylor. He thought it was a great story, that I would be more at peace with myself if I wrote it, and that -- contrary to what I thought -- people wouldn't be appalled by me if they learned the truth. He said they'd be impressed. He also kept me honest; sometimes when I'd gloss over something painful, he'd force me back to the word processor and made me get a little deeper.

I have to say, John was right. For the most part, people have been absolutely amazing. The people at "Primetime Live," for example, who worked on the piece (and no, they didn't put me up to this). I was just stunned by how deeply they understood the story and how interested they were in doing a smart, compassionate story. I feel a little like Alice who just stepped through the looking glass and the alternate world she enters isn't weird or unpleasant; instead, it's filled with kind, sympathetic, compassionate, smart people.

16. Rosemary Shively, of Terreton, Idaho, writes:

Do you ever wish for a domestic life? I can't seem to understand, how a woman can even exist, without the nurturing side of herself fulfilled. I am amazed at your tenacity in life. I was very touched by your truthfulness. Thank you for sharing yourself with me.

Jeannette responds:

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