Based on reading Facebook posts and comments by other authors, people who know me and know my husband, Adam, will assume I’ve written a memoir. I took the classic advice people give new writers, “write what you know,” and now I’ve written myself into a position that makes it look like my marriage is in jeopardy.
Adam was my beta-reader and the first to realize this could be a problem. After reading the first draft he said he felt uncomfortable because everyone would think it was us. I had exacerbated the problem by giving Chris and Amanda physical characteristics that were reminiscent of me and Adam. I didn’t really do it on purpose. It’s just kind of how they turned out when I was writing.
I also made Amanda’s past occupation a journalist and Chris a college professor. Adam and I are both professors (I specialize in journalism). Adam is worried that our friends, family and colleagues will think he’s contemplated an affair with a student. I don’t blame him, it kind of looks that way.
In an attempt to offset this speculation, I thought it may be good to go on my blog and write a little about how I came to the story.
First, I grew up watching daytime television shows like Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey. My favorite episodes were the ones where people shared their personal stories. When Oprah launched Dr. Phil, I had found a daily dose of personal stories with a dose of real psychological insight. I love this stuff. When I was trying to determine what type of conflict would be at the center of Switch-A-Wish, I drew from my experience watching married couples struggling to connect. Looking outside the relationship to feel better seemed like a reasonable way a man would react. When I started to think of the way this would play out when my main characters switched bodies, I knew it was the way to go.
I didn’t have personal experience with an affair. I had heard of students who slept with their teachers, but it had never been something that was close to me. I turned to blog posts about these types of relationships. I read a post, written by a professor, which detailed his affair with a student. I read postings in a discussion group about students who had slept with professors. I read reports by psychologists about student/teacher relationships. This was how I built a body of knowledge I could use to explore the relationship between Chris and Jenna.
Another concern was writing about sex (see my guest blog post at Gina Wynn’s http://ginawriteswords.com/ for details). I didn’t want people to picture me having sex and I still don’t. The good news is that reading a book is a personal experience. So, if I did my job well, the reader will be so caught up in his or her own world that I won’t even be involved.
I wish I would have made different choices. I wish I would have changed the details of Chris and Amanda to make their marriage less like mine, but now it’s too late and I have to own it. My advice to people thinking about writing is to write what you know. But once in a while, it might be good to consider different occupations, or at least different hair colors.
You can purchase Switch-A-Wish on Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, ARe, and Nook.