When my friend and author Laura Caldwell wrote an essay for a collection I edited (EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME), she didn't write about one of Judy's well-known kids' books. Instead she chose to write about one of Judy's adult - very adult - books, WIFEY. Laura wrote about reading WIFEY in middle school and being a little freaked out. There's a great line in her essay where she writes, "Do all adults do that? Does Judy Blume do that?" That idea almost did her in.
I think that's something a lot of readers wonder when reading a book - how much of it is based on the author? It's hard not to assume that some of what the author writes about is based on her life. I mean, really, can you honestly make up an entire book?
Here's where I admit how truly unimaginative I am. I use a lot of my own experiences in my stories, as well as my friends. They're all over the place. Not until I wrote LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS, my ninth and tenth books, did any of my characters have a sister. I mean, I never had a sister. I never wanted a sister or asked my parents for one (why would I want to have to share clothes or anything else?). I had a brother. So my characters had brothers. I like chocolate ice cream, so do my characters. I liked school, so do my characters. And the guys in my books are always the guys I wish I'd met in high school.
My friend, and fellow author, Jessica Brody recently sent me an email from LA saying she hadn't known I'd gotten remarried (I'd mentioned my husband in an email we were sending back and forth). I replied that I'd been married for 14 years, but I knew why she'd thought I wasn't. I'd co-written a book about divorce with my friend (who in fact was divorced). Jessica replied, "Oh, I'm so glad to find that out. I always pictured your husband as the husband in BACHELORETTE NUMBER ONE," which was my first book. I told her that the husband in the book was absolutely based on my husband, from the way he looks to the guitar he plays.
Of course there are lots of things in my books that I make up, but there are just as many things, little details, that are absolutely based on real life. And I like that readers might wonder which things really did happen and what was just a figment of my imagination.
What about you? Do you wonder if what you're reading might have some shade of reality to it? And if you write, how much of your own experiences do you use?