Most male readers assume I write from personal experience. Why? A lot of my fiction revolves around women’s issues. One man read the back cover of Legs, which included my bio, and said, “You write about yourself.” Since the heroine is a Realtor and I work as a Realtor, he assumed I was writing a thinly disguised autobiography. That was hardly the case. Another man read the summary of Out of Balance and said, “A former housewife. . .That must be you.” Oh, how I wish! Only in my wildest fantasies have I been a housewife. These men would not assume I was writing about myself if my novels focused on male issues, such as men in the workplace or men on the hunt for true love. They would, however, assume I was writing about a man I know, perhaps a husband, a brother, an uncle, a father, or a friend.
Most women, on the other hand, want to know how I find time to write. A lot of the women who ask this question are also working women with families. They get up early, stay up late, and always seem to be falling behind. They want to know if there is a secret formula they can use to achieve their own dreams. I tell these women I’ve been writing most of my life. I published my first essay at the age of 10 and was paid $50. Five years later, my first poem was published in a national magazine. By the time I was 17, I was working as a reporter. Writing is something I have done before I started working and before I had a family. It’s as elemental as eating and sleeping. I’m sure others have developed habits over the years that have become so much a part of their lives that they take it for granted when people ask, “How do you do what you do?”
Finally, most of my writing ideas come from my observations of life, particularly anything odd or unusual or interesting. For example, listening to a beauty school student talk about the challenges of learning the trade inspired the short story, “A Cut Above,” which is featured in my upcoming short story collection, The Human Act and Other Stories. Twenty years ago, I puzzled over the mystery of point of view after reading a police report about an auto accident told from multiple bystanders. Each person witnessed the same event, but each person described it so differently, it may as well have been a different accident. For years, I wondered how one person’s facts could become another person’s fiction. Eventually, I addressed this issue in the short story, “Out of Focus,” which is also included in The Human Act and Other Stories.
Sometimes a perfect storm happens where something so odd, unusual or interesting happens to me. That’s when I write autobiographically. And I’ll proudly say, “Yes, this is about me.” But, unfortunately, that’s the only time no one asks.
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