Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Horror in Fiction Land!

Inspired by question 7 (Is your book autobiographical?) on Lauren B. Davis' excellent blog post, Ten Questions Not to Ask Writers, I'd like to share with you all a little horror story connected to my first novel.

This novel (for which I'm currently seeking representation) is called "Growing Up. Again." Just to explain it briefly, here's my own tag line:

Most people grow up, figure out who they are, and leave home – once.

After the sudden death of her husband, thirty-five year old Emma Thomas has to do it all over again.

On her journey she battles her manipulative mother-in-law whose plans for Emma's future border on the incestuous; unearths a number of family skeletons; and encounters bullying of various forms.

She also finds a second chance at love – if she can forgive herself for taking it.

When I was close to finishing the first draft I asked two friends - lets called them Ann and Amy - to read it for me and give some honest feedback. That's when "it" happened.

Both of those early readers read the book, and decided - independently of each other - that the love interest in my work of fiction was based on a mutual friend: a happily married man with three children and the husband of another close friend, who we'll call Alice.

Their basis for this assumption? The fact that I had told them I had gained inspiration for my character's house from Alice's new house; and that his name had the same first initial. That's it.

What could I do? I laughed it off and reminded them that this was fiction.

And changed the character's name.

Two weeks ago I had a girls' night out with Ann, Amy and Alice. Foolishly I mentioned something about my progress on getting published, and Ann and Amy burst out laughing. Then they decided to tell Alice about my supposed lust for her husband.


After I'd finished turning an incriminating shade of scarlet, and had failed to ooze through a crack in the floor, I tried to laugh it off again. Alice didn't seem terribly impressed, but I think she saw the funny side.

When we were leaving, she said she was going to tell her husband.

Oh God.

Every Friday a gang of us meet for breakfast and a natter; it's a date that's carved in stone. When Alice's husband turned up and sat down opposite me I didn't know where to look. It was like being back in primary school, when your friend has told his friend that you like him, but you don't know if his friend has told him yet, so you're trying to act cool...

Except we're not in primary school, and I really, really don't have a crush on my friend's husband.

It's fiction, people!


  1. Ooh, a confession, with the hook being - despite your protestations, is said husband-of-friend a lust-magnet? It certainly took some chutzpah to make the admission - if indeed you did so - because I wonder whether this is fiction about fiction. Brava!!!! love it!

  2. Dear SarahSiddons,

    You are a wagon of the highest order. ;)

    Would it help if I told you that my husband finds the idea of me fancying this other bloke to be absolutely hysterical? Lust-magnet...um, no. Very fond of him, but not that way.

    Now you're making me deny it all over again! Cut it out, ok? ;)

    Come on people, make me feel better; share your own horror stories here. :)

  3. Hi Jane, thats so funny, just turn it all around and say that the house is your lust-object and everyone involved will be flattered,
    I'm writing a short story about a very controlling husband and wonder will people realise that it is fiction and not giving me sympathetic looks if it ever gets beyond my computer files,
    Makes you wonder if our mothers were right, 'A little bit of imagination is a dangerous thing',
    Story line sounds great, good luck with getting it published, I'll buy it if only to read the description of the 'husband', joking, great post !!

  4. Hahaha! Yes, this is a good story, and as Jane's husband I'd like to have it recorded m'lud that the connection between the fictional characters and real people/events is, as they say, purely coincidental!

  5. It's Fiction people! Does that make you feel better Jane? I have pondered this very question myself. Will people automatically assume what I write is a reflection of my life. It would make a body wonder

  6. Well, my next novel is a time-travelling romp which features Jane Austen. Hopefully no-one will make wild assumptions about that one. :)

  7. The lady doth protest too much, methinks...

  8. How horrible! My mother and sister have thought that certain characters resembled certain people (wrong in both cases), but I'm glad it didn't go as far as your story. My way out is to say most people are amalgamations, which is true.

  9. I absolutely feel your pain. I once wrote a love story with a character named William. I told my Mom that William was going to be "tall and good-looking." She burst out laughing hysterically, and then told EVERYONE we knew that I was writing a story about Prince William. And she said the main character was supposed to be me.

    So to review: everyone thinking I'm writing--what? a fanfiction?--about Prince William being in love with me. The sheer depth of my embarrassment is not to be described.

  10. Oh Jane....and no matter how much you deny it ( or because of it ) you will have great difficulty altering their minds ...So, I think it is time to adopt Miss Austen's very own stance , in your friends company, loudly in a firm voice and while staring them in the face : this is what her friend Ann Barret had to say:

    "On one occasion soon after the inimitable Mr Collins had made his appearance in literature and old friend attacked her (Jane Austen-jfw) on the score of having pourtrayed (sic) an individual: in recurring to the subject afterwards she expressed a very great dread of what she called an “invasion of social proprieties.” She said she thought it fair to note peculiarities, weaknesses and even special phrases but it was her desire to create not to reproduce and at the same time said “I am too proud of my own gentlemen ever to admit they were merely Mr A or Mr B….."

    So there ;-) Good luck with that one.....

  11. Thanks austenonly, I really like that one!

    I will repeat as necessary; "I am too proud..." ;)