What’s Us And Not Us In Writing
Posted on May 1, 2023
I’ve had editors and a couple of pre-publication reviewers ask recently how much of my upcoming novel represents me or me and my husband. It’s a popular question, and I think some of it stems from when I had almost a thousand blog posts written about my life in general—not that I’m quite that hugely interesting. My husband simply considers me wordy is frequently asks me to stop talking. But, people remember some of the crap I used to write about and, if I’m honest, there was quite a bit of my relationship in Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell. Exaggerated to an extreme, but there. After that? Not so much.
The Falling Awake series certainly didn’t feature any of our relationship. God helps us if it did. We never faced down serial killers who come back lifetime after lifetime, and we probably aren’t as nice to each other as Tam and Daniel are to each other. I did base the characters on people who I know, and some people who I don’t know, yet have observed. Sometimes it was their mannerisms, and others their online brat nature. They fit, so I made use of them. And, no, I never told them. They have no idea who I am anyway, and that would be a bizarre conversation to have with someone.
Speaking of bizarre conversations that never happened, I needed a name for a character in The Beautiful Moment. I wanted something you don’t hear often, and I settled on Clark. The idea came from a resident at the hospital where I work. I’d never met anyone with that first name before. I think the resident is Chinese, and the character in the story is Japanese. Not a huge stretch to borrow a name in that case then. Now, I’d always wanted to ask the real Clark how he came by his name. Was it a family name? Did his parents have someone in mind when they named him? You know, what was the story behind it? I never asked. I’ve passed him in halls countless times over the past two years and never once got up the nerve to inquire. Besides, I’m pretty sure the poor guy is straight, and I don’t want to freak him out with the character I wrote, who isn’t.
The parts of The Beautiful Moment that were autobiographical mostly stemmed from locations. There really is a place called The Goblin in Clinton Township where I go for sushi. It’s a terrific little place if you get a chance to try it and you live in the area. The locations up north in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were mostly real. The area is real. The descriptions of the places were real. I just didn’t always use their correct names. Although, the Wilcox Fish House was a real place. Sadly, it shut down five or so years ago. Amazing food, though. The hospital in the beginning of the story is based on where my day job resides. And, finally, the wound on Wesley’s back matches one on my own. How we came by these scars is entirely different, though.
So, did I include anything remotely autobiographical in the upcoming novel, Butterflies I Have Known? Not really. Oh, there’s the Asian market where I go that I set part of the story in, but that’s about it. The character of Matthew is nothing like me, and the character of Jian is almost nothing like Ralph. Almost. Okay, Jian sort of has this quirk of trying multiple combinations of clothes on before finally settling on an outfit, then changing it one more time. Sometimes twice more. That’s very much something my husband used to do. He might still, only he hides it better.
I have my flaws, too. I know because I’m contractually obligated to recite them to him whenever he asks. He may even have them memorized at this point. Which reminds me, Matthew and Jian are nicer to each other than Ralph and I are. I see a pattern emerging here…
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake, Falling Awake II: Revenant, Falling Awake III: Requiem, Falling Awake IV: Retribution, The Beautiful Moment, and the forthcoming Butterflies I Have Known.