The question was: Are the characters and events in my novels based on real life experiences and real people in my life?
I’ve been asked this question many times. In fact, every time I go to a book signing or speak to a book club or readers group, this is one of the first questions people ask.
The answer is: Yes and No
My debut novel, No Easy Way, contains some real life experiences, though the situations are beefed up to add a greater fictional element of suspense and surprise. The characters are derived from people in my life, but they are more like combinations of individuals. I borrow one trait from one person and another trait from someone else and mesh them together to form the persona I want for that particular character.
In the Just Call Me Angel suspense series, which centers around the Mafia, I am not writing from personal experience; thus I spend more time on research for this series because I having nothing else to draw from. However, my main characters are still a dichotomy of people in my life, and when I can work in a personal experience I do it because it helps create depth and emotion in the scene.
When I’m writing a novel I find myself more in tune with the people around me, with their idiosyncrasies and habits. I then use these mannerisms as persona definitions when I shape each individual character.
For example: In the Just Call Me Angel series, Olga’s physical structure is based on a combination of two older woman who were in my life as a child. One was my Serbian Aunt named Olga and the other was a family friend we fondly called, Granny Janny. If you meshed their looks, how they walked and gestured with their hands when they talked, you would end up with Angel’s Aunt Olga in my books.
Just for fun, I add my Alma Mater (University of Missouri, Columbia) into every book I write. It keeps my characters grounded when I, as the author, can relate to where they came from. Into each novel I also write in secret numbers or names that only those closest to me will be able to reference as meaningful. It’s like my own little game of clue behind the scenes.
I use people in my life to give me the creative inspiration that helps with character development and I believe that when characters are solidly built, they will write the story for you. ~