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