Based on a True Story

Sometimes people ask me how much of what I've written in a novel has really happened to me. That's a hard question to answer. A lot of the things in my novels have happened to me. They just didn't happen in the same way. For example, in Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, one character works as a programmer at a library software company. I also worked at a library software company, but I worked as a technical writer. There are a lot of other examples like that in the book.

Like my characters, I have an autistic sister. I know what it's like to handle an outburst in a public place. On the other hand, my sister's disabilities are much greater than Grace's. My emotions are the same as my characters' emotions regarding their sister; the details are different.

The Prigel Family Creamery (photo by Baltimore Sun)

For the most part, the places in the novel are all real places. Cunningham Falls, Muir Woods, the Kennedy Center, and The Shamrock exist outside my novel. You can visit them yourself. The dairy store is based on the Prigel Family Creamery, a little ice cream shop I visited once in Maryland. The Cuban restaurant is based on one I used to frequent in Provo, Utah. I don't think it exists anymore. I invented the Silver Linings shop in my head, but I have been to shops like that around Sonoma County, California.

The Lake near Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls

I also share a lot of hobbies with my characters. Like Elly, I love to tap dance and take things apart. Like Grace, I enjoy musicals. And like Maren, I have studied art history.

Chapter 42 of Sense is probably one of the most autobiographical things I've ever put in my novels. It didn't happen to me for the same reasons it did for Maren, but we both ended up in the same place, so I wrote much of the chapter from my personal memories.

I have never had poison ivy, but conveniently my son has had two very severe cases--one of them during edits for this book. Such a helpful boy!

Then there were things I made up. You'll have to guess what those were.

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  1. It's amazing how the real and the imaginary mix and merge while writing fiction. The hope is that ALL of it is emotionally true and so transports the reader into the world of the book.

  2. I agree with Carrie. And a nice post that tempts me to find out more about your book!


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