I searched one of author Angela Hunt’s blog sites and found this quote: “The things that enter her life sooner or later find their way into her books, hence a life in pages.” Of course, I immediately thought about what I’ve put into my manuscripts. How what I’ve experienced has made what I write.
My father always said to invest in real estate. In the summer of ’96 my husband and I looked across the state of Oregon for affordable river front property and bought some acreage in northeast Oregon between Baker City and Sumpter. We spent every chance we could four wheeling amongst the junipers, pines, firs and rocky crags of the area. My husband’s interest was in panning for gold, while I was enamored with the decaying buildings, the caves, or equipment left behind in the mining districts and still visible today. Fine, I had my location. Since I have some experience with writing, the hero in my first published book became a writer with a fan base similar to author Dean Koontz. All famous mystery author Stanton Black wanted was to leave the flashbulbs of Hollywood behind. Hiding out in the wilds of northeast Oregon seemed like the perfect way to get over the attempt on his life while researching his work. His latest novel would draw on the history of his ancestors and the lore of gold country.
I am a licensed speech language pathology assistant so the heroine in Maya’s Gold became a teacher. Now, all my hero needed was a suitable tour guide. Special education teacher Maya Valentine was no tour guide. After the death of her parents, Maya has come home to Salisbury Junction for the summer only to have an ailing friend (a historian) talk her into escorting Stanton around the area. As a pattern of crime around her and the newfound gold on her property leads to a real-life mystery. I also threw in a crazy Viet Nam veteran, which I may or may not have known in real life.
For A Place to Land: Some years back I lived next to two Russian families and I learned something about coming to America and the cultures that many brought with them. So when Uli’s (my heroine) impoverished family left Russia for America, she was only ten years old. From that point on, she’s been determined to make the American dream hers. When Headline Magazine offers the perfect story with which to launch her new writing career (okay, so I can’t let writing go), Uli travels across Oregon to find out exactly how wolf and cowboy mix. I imagined what it would be like to find a successful young rancher with acres upon acres of land set against the Eagle Cap Mountains of NE Oregon. Jackson Holt, my hero, owns one of the largest ranches in eastern Oregon and like most ranchers, is none too happy with wolves crossing over the Idaho border near his livestock. The last thing he needs is a semi-environmentalist, journalist wannabe dogging his footsteps. I also gave Jackson a well-behaved German Shepherd (I had two at the time, but maybe not well-behaved). I added a villain, but not a crazy one this time.
For Wanting Moore: I now own two lots on Main Street in the ghost town of Bourne. It is an old gold mining town in Northeast Oregon. It is a place you can sit and listen to the creek and think about what must have gone on there from 1862 through the early 1900s. Thus came the idea for my third book, a novella. The second step in putting this story together came from two Asperger’s syndrome students that I’d taught. Both had an interest in the Civil War and as the story was coming together in my mind, I asked them questions.
My father had five brothers and one sister. Some families cherish their only girl and treat her like a princess (like my aunt) and other families have a kick-butt kind of girl that tries to keep up or outdo her brothers. My heroine, Isabella Moore, is mostly the latter and a fun character to write. Independent beyond what’s good for her, she leaves her brothers and parents in Prairie City in search of her true calling. Traveling to Haines, Oregon, by way of the historic Bourne-Haines Stage Road, she runs across the type of people from whom she’d been sheltered, leading to an accident. The hero, blacksmith Gabriel Stone saw enough of death during the Civil War to last him a lifetime. Isabella is in need of his care-but caring for her may bring back unwanted memories of his former life as a doctor. And dare he entrust his heart to a woman filled with ideas of gold mining and adventure?
It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story. Are you that type of writer, too?