Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Guest Blogger- SARA ROSETT
Today I'm joined by the delightful Sara Rosett whose new book Mimosas, Mischief and Murder will be on bookstore shelves this week. I'm delighted to welcome Sara to Meritorious Mysteries!
Drawing the Line
by Sara Rosett
When I’m reading fiction I sometimes wonder how much of the story was drawn from the author’s life. If the story has a snarky mother-in-law, did reality inspire the author?
Probably not, if those dedications and acknowledgements hold any truth. You know the ones. They go something like this, “Even though the main character in this book lives next-door to the neighbors-from-hell, my neighbors are the nicest people on earth!”
While I’ve never taken anything from real life and transplanted it into a book, I do take bits and pieces—a mannerism here, a physical description there—and blend those things into my story. While I’ll admit that I have very limited artistic abilities, I think it’s a bit like a painter who layers color onto the canvas, blending shades and texture to create certain effects.
If I start off with an idea or characteristics drawn from real life, those details mutate into something unique to the book as I write. In MIMOSAS, MISCHEIF, AND MURDER, Ellie goes to visit her quirky Southern in-laws and becomes embroiled in a mystery when the patriarch of the family passes away and there are questions about whether the death is natural or not.
When I was plotting out the story, I decided that the local book festival would take place while Ellie was in town. I created a character, an author of a middle grade mystery series, who lived in the same town and signs a copy of one of her books for Ellie’s daughter, Livvy. My real life experience with Accelerated Reading programs (AR) in my kid’s elementary schools inspired the part of the story where Ellie’s daughter is in a reading contest and always has a book with her. The reading competition at my kids’ school was as intense as some Olympic events, so I wanted to put that passion into the story. My kids loved the Magic Tree House books, but I wanted something completely new, so I had my author write The Infinity Mysteries, a series about three friends who solve mysteries using math.
Then I had some fun writing about Ellie’s encounter with the author, Margaret Key. I thought back to the first writer’s conference I attended. I was surprised because so many of the authors looked nothing like their author photos. I fictionalized that incident and incorporated it into MIMOSAS. I made up a physical description of an author who looks like no author I know in real life. In her author photo, Margaret has silky, smooth blonde hair that frames her unlined face. When Ellie meets her, Margaret has slightly frizzy blond curls with dark roots, crows feet, and the beginning of a double chin—no air-brushing or Photoshop!
Since I write about a family with kids there is some crossover between my real life and the fiction I write, but the books are mostly fiction. Rarely do I take an incident and repeat it verbatim in a book. Instead, I try to think back to what it was like when my kids were younger and recapture the feelings I had then—how repetitive the daily routine was at times (the laundry never ends!), the joy of naptime, and the anxiety I felt about raising my kids. I distill those emotions into a few fictional incidents for the books.
There are certain things that are totally off limits. The other day a funny incident occurred in our family that would make wonderful blog material. But I’m not going to write about it because it would embarrass one family member. I won’t fictionalize it and put it in a book either. Keeping things private is almost a foreign concept in today’s tell-all, expose-all world. We have people taking lie detector tests on TV, exposing themselves and their families to pain. And then there’s countless people making fools of themselves on other shows, just for a few minutes in the limelight. I don’t want to regret anything I put in a book.
So many of us share events about our lives on-line through Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Where’s the line privacy line for you? If you’re a writer, how much of real life makes its way into your writing? What won’t you write, blog, or post about?
You can find out more about me and my books at my website. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and the Girlfriends Book Club blog.
A shorter version of this post originally ran in the Good Girls Kill blog.