As a novelist, I sometimes get the question; Do you ever write real stuff into your books?
That’s a hard question to answer. My definition, I am a fiction writer, so technically none of it is true. And I write historical romance novels that take place during the Regency, or early 1800s in England, so a lot of “real stuff” can’t happen in my books due to the change in culture, technology, and fashion. And much of the events that happen in my books have never happened to me. However, a lot of my writing is colored by my life, and many events within stories come from my own experiences and sometimes from the experiences of others.
Here are some examples:
When I was twelve, I nearly drowned in a river. It was terrifying and traumatic and I had nightmares about it for months. Even though I am a strong swimmer, I am still afraid of dark water and have to “psych myself up” to jump into a river or lake if the water isn’t very clear. This is an experience from which I heavily drew when I wrote the river scene in A Perfect Secret.
Also, in my youth, I found myself in the presence of pushy men, so that comes through in a few of my stories, where the heroine must use courage to forcefully reject a man whose making improper advances. I’ve also felt trapped and under the control of a verbally and emotionally abusive boyfriend, which helped create A Perfect Secret. Also, my mother fled an abusive husband before she met my father, so that influenced the tale a well.
When I was writing The Suspect’s Daughter, my husband, the perpetual athlete, was playing basketball and collided with another player. (I keep reminding him basketball is a no-contact sport but he says I should be telling the other guy 😉 He woke up lying on the floor with people surrounding him asking if he was okay. A CAT scan showed he had a concussion, and he dealt with the side effects of that injury for weeks. So when my hero leaped after my heroine to save her from a fall, I wrote in that he received a concussion and suffered many of the same after-effects my husband did. This made my hero more vulnerable, and susceptible to tender moments with the heroine than his type of character normally would.
Many of my heroines are a bit on the shy or introverted side because I am an introvert who was painfully shy as a child and youth. They also tend to be on the less confident side, feel alone in a crowd, and feel as if they aren’t pretty or talented or smart enough to be of any notice. All of these are traits that continue to plague me.
I know the darkness of losing an unborn child due to a late pregnancy miscarriage, another experience that showed up in my stories twice. I also know the discouragement and sense of loss that comes with failure.
Major plot points come from my own life, as well. In my novella, A Perfect Match, the heroine is horrified to realize she is falling in love with the man her best friend loves. Like many teens, I too experienced this. Unfortunately for me, I justified my actions because the guy I had a crush on had a chance with my friend and she didn’t give him any encouragement. But when he and I started dating, my friend felt hurt and betrayed. Our relationship never survived that. Later, after he and I broke up, he did end up dating her. My relationship with my former best friend could not be salvaged, despite my efforts. However, because I write romance and want happily ever afters with neat tie ups, the story I wrote has a better ending.
I know what it’s like to choose between my heart and my better judgement. Sometimes the logical choice, the obvious choice, is at odds with my heart. Other times, the yearnings of my heart (or perhaps my hormones) need to be tempered with logic and self control. The agony of making these choices seems to be a common thread in many of my stories.
It’s not all dark, though. Little things sneak in, like my love of going for long walks, for music, reading, chocolate, and dancing. If you’ve read my books, you may have noticed that most of them mention a harp, or a harpist. I do that deliberately because I was a harpist for many years. Putting mention of harp in my stories is a subtle signature.
Two of my upcoming releases, Heart Strings and Courting the Countess, have heroines who are harpists. This was so fun to write because I could express in a limited way the joy and peace that comes from playing the harp.
In each story, there is a time when the harpist must give up her harp (temporarily). In Heart Strings, I write a scene in which the heroine bids her harp farewell. That was a very emotional scene for me to write because I recently bade farewell to my harp. We were moving from Arizona to Washington, due to my husband’s extended unemployment and under-employment, we lacked the cash reserves for a down payment. Our only real commodity was my harp. So we sold it to provide a home for our family. I cried as it was driven away. Much of my identity was wrapped up in the harp, as well as much of my time and heart. So, when I wrote that scene, I put in some of that heartbreak. In that same story, I also wrote about the euphoria of playing. And it was nice not to have to do research for something for a change 😉
Good experiences make it into my stories, too. I write about friendships and what a lifeline that can be. I know the sweet moments with a beloved mother. I understand the euphoria during the beginnings of new love, all those tender touches and admiring glances, the exciting bliss of the first kiss, and of course, the sense of home and belonging when the words “I love you” are finally exchanged. All of those universally human emotions and experiences shape and color my stories.
I also have a firm belief in happily ever after, partly because I am a romantic and an optimist, and because my husband and I have been married for over 25 years. Yes, we’ve dealt with sorrow, disappointment, internal and external conflicts, family issues, and money problems. We have endured and our love is deeper now than ever.
A great deal of the real me is in each story I write. No, I’ve never been kidnapped by pirates, or abused by my mother, or held at knife point, but many of the same perceptions, fears, hopes, and joys I experienced appear in every story I write.
I hope they touch a place in the hearts of my readers.