Monday, January 31, 2011

The Writer's Life in the Story

I was talking with some friends about where my personal life connected with my young adult novel, Love Ya Like a Sister. Were there any real-life experiences in the novel?

In the forefront, the actual narrative events and people in the novel, the answer is "No." It's too much fun making stuff up.

The background connections, though . . . Those are more amorphous and tantalizing. Not the correspondence of lived events and created story, but rather the associations between autobiography and fiction are the interesting connections.

Here are some of those associations.
  • The novel's main character, Randy, has grown up with two sisters as next-door neighbors. I grew up in a neighborhood of sisters and girls I knew as sisters and friends. I would be over at their house eating popcorn and watching Star Trek with them when a boyfriend would show up.
  • Randy's mother has died in the novel. My wife died when my son was sixteen years old.
  • Earl, a character in the novel, is depicted as having unpredictable behavior--one minute he's a true friend, and the next he's taking a cheap shot to get a laugh. I had a friend like that in high school--a good friend with a mean streak that sometimes slipped out.
  • Places: car wash, bowling alley, Hy-Vee foods, restaurants, a sweeping curve on the highway before you hit town, the Hotel Manning with its painted lines on the wall where the flood waters tapped out--all these places were starting points for the creation of the setting.
  • A homeless guy in a park in 1970--that was part of one scene. I'm reading A Tale of Two Cities right now. Dickens could really create the memorable minor character!
I suppose there are many bits of myself in the novel. We create from our experience, bump the funny bone and use the memory of the pain to describe a broken arm. Pain and joy, winter and summer, camaraderie and loneliness--mix it up, let the yeast rise, bake the bread.

Love Ya Like a Sister is now available in a Kindle ebook edition.

Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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