I was so fortunate to be able to interview Eden Boudreau about her amazing memoir, Crying Wolf, her story of surviving sexual assault. Writing a memoir can be difficult enough to sift through the memories and when you write about trauma, it’s an even more difficult process, so I was very grateful that Eden was so open and honest about her process.
I truly hope that it will help other memoir writers out there and that you’ll check out her memoir because it is amazing.
About Eden Boudreau
Eden Boudreau was born and raised in a small rural area just outside Halifax. In 2016, she relocated to Ontario with her husband and three sons. As a bisexual, polyamorous woman who has survived her fair share of adversity, Eden’s work draws on her life experiences to inspire vulnerable and relatable stories. Her essays have been featured in Flare, Today’s Parent, and Runner’s World, amongst others. She is the host and creator of the podcast, Dear Lonely Writer, aimed at destigmatizing mental health struggles during the writing process. Boudreau lives in Georgina, Ontario. Crying Wolf is her first book.
About Crying Wolf
It’s a tale as old as time. Girl meets boy. Boy wants girl. Girl says no. Boy takes what he wants anyway.
After a violent sexual assault, Eden Boudreau was faced with a choice: call the police and explain that a man who wasn’t her husband, who she had agreed to go on a date with, had just raped her. Or go home and pray that, in the morning, it would be only a nightmare.
In the years that followed, Eden was met with disbelief by strangers, friends, and the authorities, often as a result of stigma towards her non-monogamy, sex positivity, and bisexuality. Societal conditioning of acceptable female sexuality silenced her to a point of despair, leading to addiction and even attempted suicide. It was through the act of writing that she began to heal.
Crying Wolf is a gripping memoir that shares the raw path to recovery after violence and spotlights the ways survivors are too often demonized or ignored when they belong to marginalized communities. Boudreau heralds a new era for others who were dismissed for “crying wolf.”
After all, women prevailing to change society for others is a tale as old as time, too.
Interview with Eden Boudreau
Lori Walker: First of all, I’d love to hear more about your journey to becoming a writer. How did you get your start? What was that moment you knew? In chapter three of Crying Wolf, you talk about how you had wanted to be a writer since you were a kid, but you took a longer route to get there. Walk us through that a bit.
Eden Boudreau: I used to think that I had a sort of unconventional journey to publication, but the more I talk to other writers, the more I’ve realized that we all found our way here when and how it was meant to happen.
As you mentioned, I’ve said before that I have wanted to be a writer since I was just a kid but money was not something we had in surplus when I grew up and university was out of the question after I graduated high school, so I took the route that made the most sense financially and went into the beauty industry. But after over a decade of working in that career, relocating from Halifax, Nova Scotia to just outside Toronto, Ontario and the life-changing aftermath of my assault, it felt like the right time to start finally pursuing my real passions.
In Crying Wolf, I dedicate a good portion of the latter half of the book detailing how I went from journaling to blog posts to a whirlwind writers retreat with Margaret Atwood, so I won’t spoil it for any readers but the thing that really got me started on my road to publication was writing personal essays about some of my life experiences. It was not only cathartic, but it allowed me to hone and refine my practical skill as a self-taught writer and my individual voice.
And after a few years of freelance work, and working with a terrific writing mentor, Chelene Knight, I felt ready to start sharing my story on a larger scale. Which is when I approached the publishers at Book*hug Press with my proposal for Crying Wolf.
LW: What does a typical day of writing look like for you?
EB: Well, I’m a mom before a writer so, my day generally starts with a full cup of coffee and the happy chaos of getting my three sons up and out the door. After they are off to school, I will generally split up the day between my freelance marketing clients and writing. Like many of us, I’m not at the stage yet where I can write full time yet, which means I have to be very dedicated and precious about the time I set aside for it or it could easily get pushed to the back burner.
When it comes to writing time, usually early afternoon or late evening, I sit down at my desk with my laptop, a notepad, and headphones. Being diagnosed late in life with ADHD, I have always struggled with focusing on tasks and not feeling incredibly overwhelmed by big projects. So, two things are very important when I write: Having my pink noise playlist in my headphones and breaking my writing up into small, manageable chunks for each day.
Instead of giving myself a lofty word count or even planning to tackle a chapter a day, I break everything down into really bite-size pieces. I might make a goal of finishing only two scenes that I’ve been working on or going over just two pages of line edits. When I’ve accomplished them, I cross them off a list in my notebook and add two more goals.
It may seem like a slow progress, but since my brain can so easily get overwhelmed and delights in the serotonin boost of accomplishing something, these small tasks actually make my writing process significantly quicker than if I attempted to just attack the project as a whole.
LW: You open Crying Wolf with an author’s note about the reliability of memory and truth, and how some people will remember events differently, but it doesn’t invalidate your own truth. Why did you think that was important to include and how does it tie into your overall goal for writing this memoir?
EB: For me, it was important to make this note for two reasons. In Crying Wolf, I get really honest about my childhood and family dynamics, and how they contributed to some of my internalized trauma as an adult. And I don’t think I’m alone in having experienced conversations with family members who remember certain life events entirely differently than you do, but that doesn’t mean that those moments didn’t impact you negatively and being allowed to own that truth is one of the first steps toward healing.
It was also, in a way, a direct message to any survivors reading my book. I was telling them, “I believe you.” Because so often survivors of sexual violence will have every single detail of their story, no matter how benign pulled apart and twisted in a way that fits the narrative of the perpetrator and it was important to recognize how backwards that is from the very beginning.
LW: Sticking with the topic of memory, what was your process for collecting and organizing your memories around this very traumatic experience? And how did you keep it from becoming overwhelming to relive these experiences?
EB: In the beginning, it was a daunting process. Thankfully, I had a very wonderful therapist who had kept quite detailed records of our conversations, which proved to be incredibly helpful when I was looking back at that time. Using those records along with journals and letters I had written to myself, during some of the darkest times, I was able to create a sort of patchwork timeline that I could work off of when I was initially drafting the memoir.
Being that I wrote Crying Wolf so closely after it happened in 2017, I think that contributed to being able to access those memories with such clarity. However, that didn’t make the process any less difficult emotionally.
Throughout writing it, I had to make a concerted effort to reach out or lean on my support system when it felt overwhelming, as well as giving myself the permission to walk away from the page when I needed to.
LW: I think something a lot of memoir writers, myself included, struggle with is dialogue because we don’t have a transcription of past conversations. How did you approach recreating scenes and conversations in Crying Wolf?
EB: Dialogue is probably the most difficult part of memoir because it’s not a place that you can take liberties with, not only for legal reasons but for ethical ones too.
What I found to be the best approach when it came to dialogue was, less is more. If I came to a conversation that I knew was really important to the scene or chapter, I would first reach out to the person involved (if possible) and try to piece together what we both remembered of what was said. If that option wasn’t available or too many chunks were missing from my memory, I would turn inward and instead show what I was feeling in that moment. How what was said made me feel and how that would affect the trajectory of my story.
LW: One of the things that really struck me is the voice. It is so open, relatable, and approachable. I felt like I was having drinks with a friend and hearing her story. A lot of people don’t necessarily think about this when it comes to writing a memoir—that you have to craft the narrative voice the same way you do for writing fiction. How did you create that for the page?
EB: When I first started writing, there was a lot of imitation, especially when I was working on the multiple fiction projects that will never see the light of day. I would write in similar styles to what I was reading because I didn’t know what my own voice was yet. But when I was writing the personal essays and having to be really vulnerable about difficult topics, I realized quickly how imperative it was that I write in a voice that made my reader comfortable, otherwise the material might just be too hard to digest.
I want my writing to be a conversation in a way. Something that probes the reader to think deeper about what they are reading and allows them to grow their perceptions along with the story.
LW: Crying Wolf is your first book. You also have had a number of essays published in various publications, and you host a podcast about writing and mental health. Can you talk a bit about how all of these things work together in your writing career and where you want to go from here?
EB: Advocating for better mental healthcare has always been an important issue for me. As someone who grew up in a province with very high addiction and self-harm rates, as well as having seen the generational trauma that can be caused by lack of access to support, medical care and open conversations surrounding mental health, sharing my personal experiences in my essays and book felt like a necessary use of my skill as a writer.
And starting the podcast was my way of giving other creatives a safe platform to have an even broader conversation about sort of taboo topics like imposter syndrome, financial struggles in the early stages of publication, family/work/life balance, etc.
It’s a theme that I hope to continue exploring with my writing in the future, whether it be memoir, podcasting or fiction.
LW: A lot of authors are creating playlists to accompany their books, but this being a reading column, I’d like to know what your “reading playlist” is. What three or so other memoirs would you recommend to people after reading Crying Wolf?
EB: Ooooh, great question! I would have to say, Still, I Cannot Save You by Kelly S. Thompson. It is an honest, funny and heartbreaking memoir that explores Kelly’s relationship with her older sister, Meghan. Tested by addiction, abuse, and illness, the sisters’ relationship crumbles, only to be rebuilt into an everlasting bond.
Also, Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart by Jen Sookfong Lee, which is a beautifully intimate memoir-in-pieces using one woman’s life-long love affair with pop culture as a revelatory lens to explore family, identity, belonging, grief, and the power of female rage.
And last but not least, Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation and Non-Monogamy by Rachel Krantz. It is an unprecedented exploration of polyamory and gaslighting, from an award-winning journalist chronicling her first open relationship with unflinching candor as she explores this fast-growing movement.
Lori Walker is the Operations Maven at DIY MFA. She is also the producer and co-host of DIY MFA Radio and editor-in-chief of DIYMFA.com, among other roles. Lori is a copyeditor for Amanda Filippelli and collaborating fellow for The Poetry Lab. She writes personal essays and memoir in Tulsa, where she lives with her husband and cat, Joan Didion. You can follow her on Instagram at @LoriTheWriter.