Write what you know, or write who you are?

pencilsI’ve blogged before about the ‘write what you know’ myth. I think it’s vastly more interesting to write what you want to know, about places that you want to explore, choices that you will never be forced to make, than what you’ve actually experienced. That said, it’s extremely important in my humble opinion, to write “who you are.” That doesn’t mean my characters will all be slightly nutty third grade teachers, mommies, writers and wives. It does mean that my best work will spring from the essence of who I am deep down or who I’m struggling to become. I recently read an interview with Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone detective series. Of protag Kinsey Millhone Grafton said, “I think of us as one soul in two bodies…” That is not to say that Grafton lives a double life as a ruthless detective plodding her way through an alphabet of crimes, but her work echoes the struggles and vulnerabilities she experienced as the child of two alcoholics one of whom would commit suicide.  The real life facts differ from the fictional ones, but the true “soul” if you will of an author can be found somewhere, deep down in their work.

My first book was a cozy mystery, funny, quirky and oddball (which, by the way, probably describes me more than I’d care to admit.) The protag, Ruth Budge, though in a completely different stage of life than I was at the time, having temporarily lost herself when her husband died. She was born of a time when I lost myself too, to depression surrounding the birth of my first child. It was a deep well from which I could not extricate myself and the time which should have held the greatest joy was instead a time when I couldn’t recognize my own face in the mirror. I think the subsequent fourteen novels (of various series) all reflect that fear of losing one’s way and the courage it requires to forgive yourself for the wandering, a notion I still struggle with fifteen years later. I didn’t talk about it for a long time, I wrote about it, explored it and examined it, through the lives of my fictional characters. I guess I still do.

Do you see yourself in any fictional characters you’ve encountered? Do certain authors resonate with you because of your own life experiences? Would love to hear your thoughts.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I just read Dangerous Melody and couldn’t put it down. It is so refreshing to find
    a book so thrilling and it doesn’t have all the explicit sex and dirty talk. I am a christian,
    and it was so good to read a good book and the people believed in God. Keep up the
    good works. I will be looking for more of your books. Movies, TV shows and other
    authors could learn from you. It can be good without being dirty.



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