There are many writing axioms.
“Write what you know.”
“Write hot, edit cold.”
“All writing is autobiographical.”
They’re all interesting and quote-worthy, but it’s the latter that always catches my attention.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How much of this is based on your real life?”
I imagine they’re not inquiring about how many people I’ve offed or my personal experience fleeing from homicidal maniacs. Or maybe they are. Either way, it’s a valid question, especially when you consider axiom #1. After all, if we write what we know, wouldn’t we then write from our own experiences?
For me, the answer is sometimes. Ish.
I've written before about how a computer snafu inspired the technology-based hook for Protocol . While the book’s murders and conspiracies were all fiction, the vulnerability I felt after said snafu was all too real.
For 39 Winks, I took another page from my own life: sleepwalking.
In the second book of the Maggie O’Malley series, Constantine’s Aunt Polly happens upon her husband’s murdered body during a sleepwalking episode. I’ve never stumbled across a corpse, but I have plenty of experience with somnambulism.
I’ve not only walked in my sleep, I’ve also folded laundry and made macaroni and cheese. I haven’t literally sawed logs, but maybe that’s next? I also tend to rope my poor husband into my nighttime escapades, sometimes pointing across the room and shouting, “Who’s that man?” or looming over him as I stand on the edge of the bed.
I’m dead serious. You can see how this sleep disorder offers plenty of material. And sleepless nights for my husband.
So while my so-called art doesn’t imitate my life, it’s sometimes informed by it. I write what I know. I write what I imagine. I write what I feel, exercising empathy to put myself in another’s shoes in another world. It all becomes a soup of truth and fiction, and it’s this blend of real and make-believe that draws me not only to fiction but to the mystery genre itself.
Any other sleepwalkers out there? Maybe we can talk about our nighttime (mis)adventures or fascination with sleep-crime. And bonus: we could even do it in our sleep.
Reposted from my visit with the amazing Jungle Red Writers: