The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger was released last week, and it’s all been very exciting. For someone who, three years ago, never thought she’d even get published once, it feels like a dream come true to now have two books out there.
I received some lovely messages from various people; plus, an interesting chat with someone who’d read an advanced reader copy, and who wanted to know whether any of the characters were based on people I knew. An interesting question… and one that made me ponder for a while!
Finding Inspiration in Family and Friends
I’m confident that most authors draw inspiration from the people around them. I freely admit that Anya (Kester’s girlfriend) is loosely based on a good friend of mine, and that Mike, when drunk, is 100% based on my husband, much to his horror.
However, whilst family and friends provide inspiration for my characters, they’re seldom to be found in the finished product. Take Anya, for example (and I do hope my dear friend won’t mind me discussing this). Anya works in the library, just like my friend. She’s also Scandinavian (though in the books, she’s Danish, whilst my friend is actually Finnish). They also share the same off-the-wall sense of humour. But that’s where the similarities end. My good chum provided the acorn, that little kernel of inspiration, from which the character could grow independently.
I know that other authors go far further; taking people they’ve met in real life and embedding them firmly in their novels. Personally, I think this is a risky idea (unless you’re writing a biography of course), but hey, it probably creates a highly authentic, credible character!
Finding Ideas in Experiences
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I pull a lot of creative inspiration from my personal experiences. Growing up in a spooky house was definitely a catalyst for writing the Dr Ribero series.
But it doesn’t always have to be life-changing events. Even small experiences can be used to create magic in your books. The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger is partly set in Lyme Regis; a place I’ve spent many happy days mooching around. In fact, when Pamela starts wittering on about the fabulous antiques centre on the seafront, that’s basically me talking, because I love it there!
That’s why it’s a good idea to be as aware of your surroundings as possible; because you never know when your observations and emotional responses might come in handy in your writing. In the third Dr Ribero book, the team are travelling to London by train; and in order to capture the sense of the occasion, I thought back to all the times I’d traipsed to the capital on that long, tedious journey! It’s a good example of when a seemingly uneventful occasion can be used to great effect.
How Much is Too Much?
When writing, it’s important to remember that you’re not just sharing a story, you’re sharing information about yourself. When people read it, they’re aware that there’s an author at the other side of it; and the opinions, reactions and emotions expressed in the book are presumed to be your own (unless it’s obvious that they’re not).
You may well be comfortable with sharing meaningful details about your life -and if so, I commend you for your openness. But if, like me, you’re a shy wallflower, you might want to think about it at length before committing. For example, I recently wrote a short piece about a particularly sad event in my life, and shared it at a writing group. They were all very kind about it, but actually, I found it a painful experience. I felt hyper-exposed, and although I’m glad I gave it a go, I’ll be honest, I just wasn’t comfortable sharing something that had upset me so much at the time.
Do You Have to Share Personal Information at All?
The irony is – you may want to remove yourself from your novel entirely; but I’ll bet good money that you won’t be able to. These books are our babies – they’re born from us, and as such, there’s always going to be a bit of us in them, whether we like it or not.
This is no bad thing though; as it’s often that essence of uniqueness that makes the writing stand out. You don’t have to go overboard with sharing personal information, and you don’t have to use the people around you for inspiration. But I strongly advise that you celebrate your personal style of writing; which is born from your life experiences.
What do you think? Is it okay to include people you know in your books? Do you like to share, or would you rather make it as little about you as possible? Do share your thoughts on social media – it’s a fascinating topic!
Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural – The Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost, is available to buy – you can do so here (US) or here (UK). Also, The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger is now out, and can also be bought on Amazon, and other bookshops in the US.