Authors are a strange breed.
We live both in the outside world, and inside our heads.
Being an author is one of the few careers where hanging onto your past works to your advantage, rather than against it. Our past experiences, the people we meet, and the places we go, all come together in our work. There’s an old expression in the publishing industry that you should never annoy an author, because you might just find yourself killed off in print. *laughs* This is true, in many cases. A number of my friends who are also authors can attest to this – we deal best with annoyance through imaginary violence.
However, it’s not just those things/people we’re annoyed by that end up in our work. More often, the people we care most about become immortalized in our work. Their personalities color our favorite characters, and we become as attached to the character as we are to the person, because we know who that is. After all, we took the very best (and sometimes the not so great) aspects of someone we care about and wove them into a whole new world.
I’ve done it, myself. Most notably, I immortalized the man I loved deeply, and lost tragically, in my Underground books. Some of the details have been changed. I changed the name (obviously), but kept his Callsign as Rick’s codename. Many of the physical characteristics are the same, while some are different. His occupation is different – Rick is a Commando and formerly a Navy SEAL. The man he’s based was an Air Force pilot. But the personality is the most important part – the man you see in Rick is the man I knew and loved, in almost every personality particular.
I lost the man I loved in a tragic accident that still scars me, today. I originally started writing the first Underground book, TAMIA, while he was alive. In fact, he was a large part of not just the inspiration, but the story itself. He urged me to write our future in those opening books of the series, and he was immensely proud of my ability as an author, always encouraging and supportive of my craft. His death came as a blow I never saw coming, and which left me emotionally flattened and broken for a long time. In the wake of his death, and my inability to properly grieve (due to our situation, which I won’t discuss), I started work on the book that would become HERO’S HOPE… and soon learned that there are some scenes, some situations, and some events, which you can’t recreate on paper, no matter how good an author you are. There are some things too deeply painful and personal to immortalize. I lost the man I loved. I couldn’t kill the only connection I’ve always felt I had left to him – I couldn’t follow through, so Rick couldn’t die. That would have been like watching my beloved die all over again.
There are some wrenching impacts in HERO’S HOPE – but there remains one thing: hope. There remain secrets that leave the heroine (whose personality, if not her physical appearance and back story, is based on my own) emotionally broken and bleeding. But I left her with the hope I don’t have, a story not yet completed, and a chance of redemption from her pain.
From writing HERO’S HOPE and the follow-up, VENGEFUL HEART, I learned I’m stronger than I thought. I learned I can and will endure, and that the love I still carry in my heart is a precious thing, and made of tougher stuff than anyone in this world can destroy. I might not get my happy ending, but being an author allows me to create a future for myself I can immortalize on paper, even if I have to do it through characters who are not completely fiction.