I’m working on a new book. I’m really excited about it because it pulls from all sides of my own experience … the main character is an interior designer. That’s not to say the book is based on my life—it’s not. But that is a risk you run as an author, that people think your stories are secretly based on you and your friends. I’ve pulled lines or settings from real life a couple of times, but my fiction writing is VERY much fiction.
I guess what has me thinking about this is the fact that my new book blends writing and interior design, my two favorite things. I love writing about homes and design in my day-to-day non-fiction work, and turning my fictional characters’ world in that direction is even more fun. When I worked full-time as a designer I learned loads of stuff about the industry and the workings of a firm, and I can now put all of that into play in a book. I’ve been to furniture markets and design centers, worked on a decorators’ showhouse and done projects for some hilarious real-life characters. Those things all come into play in this book … just not literally. And by that I don’t just mean “names are changed to protect the innocent.” The stories and characters are from my imagination, not from real life.
I have a friend who told me she’d like to write fiction, but she’s afraid everyone who reads it would think it’s about her. That’s a real fear, let me tell you! I’ve read books by people I know, and it’s hard to separate that person from the work. Getting into a character’s head is a weird thing, though, and when I’m writing a character (like Erin in 30 First Dates, who is almost nothing like me), it feels more like channeling than anything else. The character’s opinions aren’t my opinions. The things the character does aren’t necessarily things I would do.
Still, real life does inform fiction. That’s why writers have to do so much research to make a story authentic. In the case of my new book, the research comes from my own, real-life experience. But so far not a single scene in the book is lifted from real life.
If that changes as I’m writing and I DO base something or someone in the book on real life … well, I’ll never tell. 😉