My Husband Sees Himself In My Villains

Both of us Ten years agoTomorrow is my tenth wedding anniversary, the year of tin or diamonds, neither of which excites me much. The only gift that matters is knowing I’ve been lucky enough to have a partner who supports everything in my life from raising our kids together to giving me the space to develop my legal career and hobbies.

Our marriage, like most relationships, has had its ups and downs. My rocky pregnancies, the extreme prematurity of our twins, and a couple of tumultuous career changes challenged us over the years, but we got through it together. Now, I look back on the past ten years without regrets–except for one.* I really wish I hadn’t made the villains in my books the same height as my husband.

The fact that they are exactly his height is merely a coincidence, a byproduct of my unoriginality.  It hadn’t occurred to me that it was a problem until, one day, Mr. AMB noted the similarity (and the fact that well under 1% of the population is exactly that height) and asked me why I’d based my villains on him. In my opinion, the villains bear no other resemblance to the man I married, and the fact that he thinks they *might* probably suggests more about the way he sees himself than about how I see him. The fictional characters in other people’s books that remind me of my husband — such as Rainbow Rowell’s Lincoln, who is “built like a tank, dressed like he just won the science fair,” and Kate Bracy’s Buddy, who has the same taste in music as my husband have been good guys.

My husband’s question also says something about how he sees the relationship between books and their authors, a view many of us may share. I often read books looking for a connection to the author, thinking there is a piece, perhaps a large piece, of the author (and others in their lives) in the characters. When I was a kid, I remember thinking I knew L. M. Montgomery, who died four decades before I was born, because I counted Anne Shirley among my best friends. I thought Montgomery and Shirley were one and the same.  Fiction is supposed to be fictional, but it comes from somewhere or something real — or at least for the sake of authenticity, it should.

I’ve been thinking about the sources of fiction since reading Amie Barrodale’s Why Life and Writing Are Inseparable, in which she explains:

My work comes from my life. But after my first collection of stories, I made a vow to myself: no more of that. I began to think about writing a novel about a pedophile who undergoes some kind of elective treatment, some kind of brain surgery, some kind of stimulation of his illness that forces him to basically go through the hell of his own mind, his own sickness, to come out cured. I began to read about pedophiles. But on the side, as I worked, another story emerged, about a miscarriage, a miscarriage I had last year.

What I mean is that for me, for better or for worse, my life presents itself as a story sometimes.

My stories come from my reality too. I use writing to process what I experience in my profession and in my personal life, making it no coincidence that my characters often have a legal background and confront issues related to ones I’ve had to face. Aspects of my husband’s experiences and personality have also seeped into my stories. Without him, my heroes probably would’ve been professors, rather than the type of lawyer he is, and the stories would’ve centered around a different type of litigation. Without him, my villains probably would’ve also been shorter, but I wouldn’t read too much into their heights. After all, the stories are fiction. Mostly.

Amal Wedding-06
(I don’t know why everyone looks so grim!)


*Okay, maybe a couple of regrets, but I’ll save those for another time. 😉


  1. Happy anniversary!! Your dress and your bridesmaids, whoa!💜👌
    Heh oh wow I did lit studies, so ummm lots of postmodernism and death of the author😂

  2. Happy Anniversary!
    Our writing is our baby, so it would be surprising if it didn’t have our DNA embedded in it 🙂

  3. Happy anniversary! I love that Lincoln from ATTACHMENTS reminds you of your husband – he’s such a great character. Enjoy your day!

  4. Now I understand how your little girls are so pretty. It has come from their mom. 🙂
    About your post. I am not the writer, but I’ve thinking about connections between authors lives and their books. After I finished The Bell Jar, I read about the author Sylvia Plath and discovered that she had gone through the same problems as the main protagonist. And I thought that if you write about your own experiences then this sound more convincing. You can always imagine things, but only if you have experienced it, you really now what it feels.
    Happy anniversary! 🙂

  5. I often feel powerless and upset by the bad things happening in our country, so I often create characters who have special abilities or powers, and in my last book, they all escaped to an Earth in a parallel universe. A much better Earth. 😉 So in my case, my characters aren’t me so much as they are living lives I can never experience. They get to visit the places I can’t afford (Paris, Belize, and Egypt, to name a few) and do the things I simply can’t for one reason or another. Writing isn’t self-exploration for me; it’s escape.

    1. Thank you! My wedding wasn’t at all serious. I laughed all the way down the aisle because my shoe got caught in the runner and then the ceremony was only 15 minutes long. But this picture tells a different story!

      1. That is amazing. What a great story, and I loved that you laughed about it. Maybe that was the part where the officiant reminded you that marriage is FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER. Hahahaha.

        Also, your bridesmaids’ dresses/color is 🔥. And I love what I can see of your dress!

  6. Happy Anniversary! Husband and I celebrated our ninth anniversary last week and we were laughing at those crazy gifts. Who came up with those, anyway?

    I loved seeing some of the pictures from your wedding in this post! 🙂

  7. Very interesting post. I definitely find connections between the narratives and their authors. Sometimes it even severely affects my ability to enjoy the book or continue the series, that’s if the affect is highly negative. Writing can be such a personal thing, especially if we’re passionate about it, that I believe it’s virtually impossible not to put pieces of yourself into it. Also, happy anniversary. 😊

    1. Thank you! I find it very challenging to separate authors from their books, especially when there are obvious parallels between the author’s life and the book they wrote.

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