Monday, May 9
Putting Yourself Into Your Writing
Thanks to Word Wranglers, and chapter-mate and all-around-good-friend Christi Barth, for having me here today! Authors often put what they know into their stories—places, overheard conversations, firsthand experiences, familiar character traits, beliefs and feelings, adding a degree of authenticity that makes their writing much more real. I insert myself into my writing like this in many ways. For example, I like to use my friends’ and family’s birth dates for my characters, and most of my books are set in places I’ve actually lived or visited. Tattoos are another way I’ve put something I know and have experienced into my writing. Though it wasn’t intentional, as I think about it, a main character in every book I’ve written so far is marked.
The character that epitomizes this in my writing is Caden Grayson, hero of my debut novella, Hearts in Darkness. Caden has a total of seven tattoos, and every one of them mean something to him. Makenna, the heroine, sees the first of Caden’s tattoos in the beginning scene of the story. A stranger’s hand is holding the elevator door open for her and bears the red and black ink of a dragon. Later, when Makenna asks why he got a dragon, Caden says, “The dragon’s my fear. I put it on my arm to remind myself I’ve tamed it.” The tat’s not random, not purely decorative; there’s a story that goes along with it. One by one, Makenna explores and asks about Caden’s tattoos. About the big yellow rose on his left pec, he explains, “My mom had a rose garden. Yellow was her favorite.” About his tattoos, Caden thinks, “He’d thought of them as a way to remember, he’d thought of them as a form of penance, and he’d not minded, after a certain point, that they might keep people away.” His ink has meaning; it serves a purpose.
So, how is this something I know? Well, I’m sure you’ve guessed it—I have tattoos. Not seven, like Caden! Just two (for now!). And they mean something to me, too. My first tattoo is on my right shoulder. I got the star with three roses in the center to commemorate three generations of women in my family, and to remember my mom, who died unexpectedly at the age of 59 when my oldest daughter was only 8 months old. The yellow rose is for my mom—just like Caden’s. She gave me yellow roses for every occasion I can remember from high school on. They were our special thing. The pink rose is my oldest daughter—my sweet, smart, bookish girly girl. And the purple rose is for my youngest daughter, who is rough and tumble and has already grabbed life by the horns and lives it at full volume. I’m the star LOL, though it doesn’t mean what you might think! The daughter of a single mom who had to work several jobs to make ends meet, I spent a lot of time alone growing up. Then, both my parents died by the time I was 33. So the star represents the sense of solitariness I sometimes feel. But I put those roses inside to remind myself I’m not alone, I’m part of something bigger. And those hearts inside the rose petals—they’re the love I’ve found with my husband that has centered my life for, well, pretty much my whole adult life.
I also have the word “Imagine” on my right wrist. [Public Service Announcement: owie! LOL] I had been thinking about this tattoo for at least a year before I had it done, and used celebrating my first book contract as the justification for finally doing it. And how better to commemorate my writing career than with the word “imagine”? Except, that’s not really what it means to me. A lot of difficult things happened in the five or so years before I got this tattoo. My mom, grandmother, and a close uncle all died. A close friend committed suicide. I had a miscarriage, and then a few years later I came down with a chronic illness that knocked me out of work for several months. Those years weren’t all bad, of course, but there was just a lot to weather, a lot to overcome. So, to me, “Imagine” was about holding tight to the hope that tomorrow would be better than today. And it seems to me that believing is half of achieving.
Caden has lots more stories to tell—but you’ll just have to read Hearts in Darkness to learn the rest! *grins* So, for those of you with tattoos—care to share the story behind? For you authors—what are some interesting or unique ways you put yourself into your stories?
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Word Wranglers!
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Publisher Website: http://thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=800