I’m always amused when friends or family read my work and try to piece together who a certain character is modeled after. My standard answer is, “no one and everyone.”
Whether it’s characters or locations, situations or details, there’s always a hint of my life in every book I write.
I'm going to put it out there front and center -- none of my characters are carbon copies of real people. Hey, I don’t want to get sued or lose friends and family.
But I enjoy giving a nod to people I care about in some form. For example, in one book, there’s a feisty older lady who volunteers her time at a coffee kiosk in the retirement home where she lives. I named her after a good friend who is absolutely not of retirement age but shares my love for coffee and has a wicked personality like the character in the book.
In The Memory of Hoofbeats, coming out in 2017 from Forge, I have a young male rider named for my son. Because he asked, he loves horses, and I how could I possibly say no? There’s another young rider named after a friend’s daughter because the young lady rides and her mom has been an amazing supporter and friend throughout my downs and ups in the writing process.
It's always fun to read a book where I know the location the story takes place. But interestingly enough, when I write, the pictures in my brain are mish-mashes of multiple places.
The Memory of Hoofbeats takes place in a fictional town in Maryland and the stable is a combination of a couple of barns where I’ve had the pleasure of riding. Each “visit” to the stable when I sat to write was a trip to a happy place. I didn’t have many opportunities to visit the stable during the period I wrote this book, but my fingers and imagination could beam me up at any moment.
Another book takes place in a Delaware beach town that was inspired by Rehoboth. It’s not exact, but there are restaurants and the boardwalk and a couple of houses that I fell in love with and had to work into the story. One house in particular caught my attention. It’s ocean front and has a deck on the second level, beautiful French doors, and inviting wood furniture. Every morning on our vacation, I’d get a cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop then walk the beach and stop not far from this house. The main character in my book imagines what it would be like to be the person living in that house.
This is a wee bit more complicated. Last year I wrote a post about using my fiction to explore how I feel about things, people, me. I’ve never gone through what my characters go through, at least to the extent they go through it, but some of those situations stem from real life experiences.
In The Memory of Hoofbeats, the main character Emma has to face her childhood best friend who betrayed her and turned her back on her. Thankfully, I’ve never had a friend be this awful but I’ve had to sort through hurt feelings when a friend I thought was close turned away from our friendship for reasons I didn’t understand. Through Emma, I could say the things I wish I could have told that so called friend.
One of my favorite characters is an old carousel builder who has Alzheimer’s. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s and Hank became my emotional outlet and connection to someone I lost. Writing his thoughts, I heard her voice.
These are the little things that make your characters and settings come to life. In my work in progress, for example, the main character uses the Star Wars theme song as her ring tone for her best friend. Yup, you guessed it, I have that same ring tone.
In every book at least one character ends up with curly hair. That’s usually where the physical likeness stops though since most of my characters are fit and athletic, two things I’m still wondering if I can regain. 🙂
In one book, the main character shares my love for Chris Botti. In my WIP, the grandmother listens to the same opera over and over. My mom loves opera although she doesn’t listen to the same as obsessively. It was with her that I saw La Boheme (the opera Grams in the book has on autoplay) for the first time.
In The Memory of Hoofbeats, my main character has a thing for hazelnut lattes and discovers the zen in crocheting. Anyone need a scarf or hat (I've been searching for that zen a lot lately)?
Now you … do you write in personal tidbits into your books? Give a nod to a friend or relative? Kill off a friend or relative (no names please! 🙂 )?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut, The Memory of Hoofbeats, will be released by Forge in 2017.