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An interview with Nina Holden, author of Clandestine Confessions

The author was interviewed by reviewer Erin Roberts

From victim to activist

I had the opportunity to interview the author of Clandestine Confessions, Nina Holden, a young woman who has come a long way since she was raped.

Roberts: Clandestine Confessions is your first book. Did you always want to be a writer or was it the need for more information on this subject that prompted you to write?

Holden: Actually, the first thing I ever wrote was a song. It was when I was about seven and had just begun learning to play the piano. As a child and adolescent I wrote poems and short stories and at school my writing talent was pointed out to me. I suppose deep down I did always want to be a writer but I had never thought that rape would be the topic of any book I would ever write.

Roberts: How long did it take you to write Clandestine Confessions?

Holden: I think it must have taken me about three years to write the book. I mainly wrote in the evenings and during the weekend, and then I’d stop for a month or two, delete a lot of what I’d written, and so on.

Roberts: Was it difficult for you to write?

Holden: Yes, especially when I was rereading and rewriting I dreaded having to work on a particular part because it triggered those painful memories.

Roberts: Yes, that couldn’t have been easy.

Holden: No, I was actually very relieved when I finally finished writing Clandestine Confessions. But I’m also very glad that I wrote it.

Roberts: What was your main reason for writing Clandestine Confessions?

Holden: Initially I wrote it because I had felt so alone and that’s why I wanted it out there so it could hopefully let someone else know that what they are feeling is not abnormal. I had desperately wanted to know how other young women dealt with the aftermath of assault, but didn’t feel up to openly discussing what I had gone through or what I was feeling and I found it difficult to relate to the books women in their thirties or forties had written because I hadn’t reached that stage of my life yet - still haven’t actually.

Roberts: Have you had responses from readers saying that your book has helped them?

Holden: Yes, I have. And that’s extremely rewarding and I am very grateful. But interestingly enough, people who have read my book and weren’t familiar with the trauma of rape have told me that the book let them see a side of this crime they never knew.

Roberts: I can relate to that. Are you going to continue to write books?

Holden: Yes, I’m currently working on another novel but about a completely different topic. Writing Clandestine Confessions was a painful experience because of the subject matter obviously, but at the same time it reminded me of how much I loved writing. And while I was working on this book I also began experimenting with other stories.

Roberts: Why did you opt for writing a novel instead of a memoir?

Holden: I suppose I thought that by writing a memoir I would have to include aspects of my personal life that are not at all relevant. I do not claim that this is a universal story that applies to every victim of rape. It tells about only one person’s feelings and thoughts. And although I initially wrote the book in the hope that it could benefit other survivors, I think it serves a more important purpose actually and that is to enable those who do not know anything about these experiences, also those who are close to someone who has been assaulted, to grasp what the aftermath of such a traumatizing experience can do to a person.

Roberts: Yes, all too often we hear about rapes happening, but not so often do we hear about the culprits being put behind bars. Perhaps if more people had a clearer picture of what this crime does to the lives of the victims and their loved ones slowly but surely change can occur.

Holden: I do hope for that. I think it is important to speak out. But shame and fear of not being believed make it difficult to even report such a crime.

Roberts: Is it true for you, as it is for Elize, that the police did not arrest the man who raped you?

Holden: Yes, it is. And also the guilt of not having been able to ensure that he could not do this to any other girl made me feel obliged to write this story. As a compensation for my shortcomings. At least that is what I felt at the time I began to write.

Roberts: But rapists don’t get life. Even if he had been arrested and jailed he would be out several years later. You could never have prevented that.

Holden: I’m afraid you’re right.

Roberts: You’ve obviously come a long way. I mean you’re talking to all sorts of people about these highly intimate and traumatizing experiences.

Holden: I’ve grown a lot since I finished the book and definitely since it was published. I’m stronger and ready to come forward. Creating awareness and helping to achieve that rape and it’s aftermath are no longer taboo are important challenges that we face.

Roberts: Your account is very forthright, brutally honest actually. You really say it like it is without holding back.

Holden: I wanted to express my true feelings and thoughts even if these are considered shameful by some and even if this makes me look weak. After all, this book was not written so that I could look good. That would only make other’s feel weak. So, I just wanted to be truthful about my emotions, no matter how humiliating some of these revelations may seem.

Roberts: Have you had any comments on this?

Holden: Yes, some people have asked me if I’m not ashamed to admit that I wrote this book because it describes what I went through and how I had felt at the time. I actually find that worrisome. There is clearly a need for more understanding. It’s been several years since this happened to me, but girls and women, and boys and men, who were recently raped, shouldn’t run into someone who will make them feel more ashamed rather than less. And the truth is that I’m not ashamed. Rapists are the ones that should be ashamed, not their victims.

Roberts: Yes, you’re absolutely right.

Holden: If we pretend it’s not a big deal, that rape is not a life-changing experience, then that is how this crime will be perceived.

Roberts: Thank you for this interview and thank you for having the courage to write this book. It is a real eye-opener.


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