I wanted to take some time today and clear up something that I get asked about a lot. A LOT. I've had this discussion with so many different people, all of them well-meaning, I'm sure. But after answering these questions over and over I have decided to dedicate one of my weekly blog articles to the topic. They all want to know who the characters are based on in my novel, An Unusual Path.
Before we move forward, below will include details about the story. If you don't want to see the spoilers or know what happens since you haven't read it yet, then you should stop here. Go get the book, read it, then come back. We'll still be here for you when you come back.
The short answer to this question may shock you. The truth is no one. None of the individual characters in An Unusual Path are based on any specific person in my life. Yes, I may have pulled from my own experiences. Pretty much any author does that, and it influences our writing. But just because I happen to be a woman who is married with children doesn't mean that the character of Amy is really just me.
I am not Amy Knott. I know that may surprise or even frustrate some of my readers, but its the truth.
(spoiler ahead) When the book first came out, many people were shocked when the character Clark, Amy's husband, died. Many of my readers felt that Clark was based on my husband, Charlie, and what I heard from so many people was, "You killed Charlie!" No, no I did not. I decided that to write Clark's death because it needed to happen and was crucial to the story. That tragedy actually had very little to do with Clark, as strange as that sounds, but everything to do with Jack and Amy. Clark's death was a part of Amy's journey, as well as Jack's journey. Nothing else in the story could have happened the way it did had Clark survived his car accident.
There has been a lot of speculation on the basis for Jack as well. Again, he is not based on anyone in particular. I have a close friend whom I have known since we were teenagers, a single guy whom I love like family. We speak to each other nearly every day, but we don't get to see each other as much as we'd like because he lives on the West Coast. While I was able to fully understand what it was like for Jack and Amy to have such a close friendship over quite a distance, that does not mean that Jack is based on him. That friendship influenced the story, sure, but I have other male friends whose friendship I share also influenced that story just as much. None of them "are Jack".
To tell you the truth, there is probably just as much of me in Jack as there is in Amy. Amy gets some of my loving, nurturing side, and Jack is my snarky sarcastic side. Their bond is probably more about putting myself back together than about who the characters are based on. There is someone who could rattle off some psychobabble at me about that, but it is what it is.
The only character who I would say is "based on" anyone is Katie, and yet even she is not based on someone specific. I know a lot of Katies. A woman who is funny and beautiful but insecure under it all, who is primarily still single, in my opinion, because she's hung up on the perfect man that doesn't really exist. Some of the things said to her over the course of the story are things I wish I could say to those friends of mine.
One of my favorite moments in An Unusual Path is the conversation that Amy and Katie have the morning they spend together while Amy is visiting Charlotte. Its a period in the story that few people talk to me about when discussing the book, but its one that I feel is crucial to who Katie is. There are things that all of the Katies in my life probably need to hear, and maybe using the voice of Amy gave me the courage to say them. All I can hope is that those people read the book and heard it.
When you are reading my books, or any author's work for that matter, focus on the story and less on trying to figure out who the characters "are in real life". By doing that, you aren't giving the characters the chance to be their own people. To make the assumption that I am Amy is really unfair to Amy. Let her, and all of the characters, be who they are on their own. In the same regard, don't let a writers characters make you think differently about the author. Each can stand on their own feet, even if those feet only exist on the pages of a novel.
Happy writing, everyone!