Recently I learned that someone is convinced that something in one of my books is real and I did it. This isn’t the first time this has happened. A few years ago, a woman at a book club who had read ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN asked me in all seriousness how many times I’d cheated on my wife because the story dealt with infidelity. Others have pushed me for answers about different aspects of my stories and my culpability. It can be a little bit disconcerting when someone asks you, “did you ever get caught stealing cars?” At the same time, I can understand why people will read something and put two and two together and come up with five. It might be fiction, but for any slice of fiction to be believable, the element of realism has to be strong. It has to get the reader to suspend their disbelief and buy into what they’re reading.
A writer’s storytelling style plays into this problem too. While any writer can proclaim that their writing is a reflection of the world around them, a book says more about the writer world view than anybody else’s. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I show more than a little thigh from time to time in my stories. It’s impossible for my sensibilities and insensibilities not to show.
By the same token, when someone rushes up to me and demands to know how many times I’ve cheated on my wife, it reveals a lot more about their life and sensitivities than it does about mine. That’s the bugger about any story. Once it’s out there in the open, it’s a mirror and we all see something different when we gaze into it.
When it comes to the crimes I may or may not have committed, I have to fall back on Sharon Stone’s defense in BASIC INSTINCT. If I’d committed a crime, do you think I’d be daft enough to admit it in writing? I’m dumb, but not that dumb. 🙂
I will admit that while none of my stories are reenactments of things that have happened to me, there are flickers of personal experiences contained within the pages. While it would be nice to regurgitate life stories in my books, it doesn’t work that way. They just don’t fit well within the confines of a novel.
That said, I do occasionally insert a few inside jokes in my stories for my amusement and the amusement of friends, coworkers and family. Perhaps, an old boss’ name is used for a character who comes to a grizzly end. Sometimes I do things for my enjoyment only and the eye rolls of others. I used Julie’s name for a character whose husband was cheating on her and I killed my mother-in-law in another. Don’t worry, I haven’t done these things but I know I’m going to get a groan out of them when they read the story.
Of all the things I’ve been accused of doing in real life no one has accused me of killing anyone. I guess I should be flattered by the fact that some people think I’m an adulterer, a thief, or a blackmailer, but not a murderer.
I suppose my only advice to you, my readers, is not to wonder about the things I write about, but the things I don’t write about. 🙂