When my husband walks into the post office, Deb the postal clerk says, “So…who are you in COWBOYS NEVER CRY?” Sometimes this idea that people think I’m writing thinly veiled memoir scares me – who do they think I am? After publishing three novels, a schizophrenic is the only possible right answer!
Readers often assume that fictional characters are really based on actual people. It’s hard for those who don’t write to imagine a person could conjure a completely original character. This is how it works with me: I never write about real people in my life, but I do write about real characteristics of people in my life.
But try to tell that to Deb at the post office.
I haven’t consciously written about myself, my life or the people in it in any of my novels. Yet all those years of inappropriately thinking everything that occurred in the world had to do personally with me helps now that I’m writing. Also, all that empathy I experienced earlier in my life, before learning how to hold psychic boundaries has given me insight into others. That’s one nice thing about being a writer: even your failings are eventually useful.
If anyone in my life is looking to read about themselves in my novels they’d have to examine every single character for familiar fragments. Attributes are scattered like stars, then constellated into individual characters.
But, really, this is only my attempt to consciously sort out what occurs unconsciously for me. None of my fictional characters are based on real people as far as I am concerned. I write out of some inner space that has very little to do with my real life or the people that live in it.
In COWBOYS NEVER CRY I dedicated the book to my brother Tom Welling. I found myself thinking of him so much while writing that a few things he’d told me decades ago began to infuse my work. Yet there is no single character in the book that resembles my brother in any way. The bits from his life are altered and scattered among a few characters.
Creative energy is a mystery. Inner space is as vast and unexplored as outer space and, to me, far more fascinating.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, as readers or writers, on that blurry line between fiction and truth. In many ways, no matter who we are that’s where much in our lives takes place anyway.
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