The first rule of every writing class is to write what you know. That makes perfect sense. The characters drawn from reality have more depth and complexity than ones formed solely from the imagination. Long time readers of mine have been given cause to wonder about the extreme adventures I’ve written about in my erotica. My male readers wonder how I know so much about men to write in a characters head. Well, I admit to having some escapades that give me a thorough grounding in the wilder side of erotic relationships. And I do know a lot about men. For a long time in my twenties, my circle of friends was mostly guys. I was the gal pal of the group. I had a ringside seat to their dating and their friendships and how they viewed life and the world. I listened very carefully and was given a lot of insight. Consequently, I remain friends with most of my exes. And I learned to write male characters who are very real. As for the gay men, I’m a long time fag hag. I have close friendships with gay men. And they talk a lot, too.
As for the settings in my novels, I certainly didn’t spend any time in any of them. However, I went to Journalism school as an undergrad. I was trained to research a subject thoroughly in order to write about it with authority. That’s an easy skill to transfer to fiction. Much of the fiction I write springs from reality. I read a lot of histories and biographies before I wrote ‘the Privateers.’ Even though it is set in space, I had the script read by a leading expert in pirate lore. In the Gunslinger, the heroine is reading a dime novel about a real life gunslinger. I drew that from the real life of Kit Carson who came to the rescue of a woman kidnapped by Apaches. He found her body, unfortunately, and amongst her belongings was a dime novel about him. The research gives reality to the story and often helps fuel the plot.
I’ve been having a blast with the research for A Soldier’s Choice sequel, A Soldier’s Fate. That has included everything from military cooking and nutrition to historic resistance movements and undercover espionage techniques. It’s quite a lot of fun, and the novel is coming together nicely.
But writing what you know can be a minefield when it is a story about one’s own family. I’m working my way through a story about my mother. Though it is fictional, the events are real. And with any family based story, history can be revisionist and feelings can be hurt easily. It’s really hard to explain the notions of creative license and artistic vision to irate relatives at a reunion. In many ways, this story will be my most controversial work where they are concerned. They flat-out don’t understand the erotica. Aside from worries over the reaction looming over the story, the writing is hard. Grief never really leaves. Though the story itself is not sad, I find myself crying a lot. That makes for slow going. But I’m pleased to finally tell her story.
I’ve cried enough today for lost Mothers. I’m off to roast some garlic.