Writers Are Thieves

I'm in yur lifes, stealin' yur wurdz.

Nothing anyone says is safe in my house. Not only do we have two writers, we also have a teenage daughter who will take the most offhand remark, laugh maniacally, then immediately post it without explanation or context on her Facebook page. (The Boy is pretty safe. He’s a musician and deals more with musical notes and philosophical truths. He rarely updates his FB status.) The Girl, however, has a flair for sharing the ridiculous.

She gets that from me, unfortunately.

I like a good challenge. Some are self-inflicted, and some come directly from others. Sometimes a piece of real-life dialogue is so silly, it begs for a new context. In Monster in My Closet, there were two separate lines I had to find a use for: “My bread fell asleep in the toaster” and “The problem is, you’ve got to have movie-time attitude.” They made little sense in real-life when they were spoken, but inserting them into a story? Challenge accepted.

I also like to drop inside jokes into the manuscript, just to make my husband laugh. I never expect them to make it through edits, but so far, I’ve managed a Ghostbusters and a Raiders of the Lost Ark reference that made it all the way to the galley stage, so they’re permanent.

In Pooka in My Pantry, in honor of my best friend from childhood (who’s also my hardest critiquer), and also in honor of our fourth-grade teacher, I dropped in a little scene about a mess in a girls bathroom—one which I recreated from something she and another girl actually did. It was epic and included yogurt and a peanut butter sandwich. I felt it needed to be immortalized, even if it was only a few sentences in a short conversation in the book.

As someone who’s known me longer than any other non-family member, she also picked out my dislike of goats from a zoo scene. Zoey’s flashback was a real childhood event wherein a goat in a petting zoo tried to eat my dress and scared the hell out of me.

And while we’re talking about it, Zoey herself is more like me than I’d like to admit. Everybody who reads the books tells me she’s me. Well, no, she’s not. Not intentionally. But when people at a checkout counter stop her and tell her their life stories with no prompting whatsoever—yeah. That’s me. It happens every time I leave the damn house. Hell, it happens when I don’t leave the house. My son laughed when the pizza guy (with no prompting from me, I swear) started rambling on about his problems. Hand to God, I even had a shrink do it once while I was sitting in his office.

So, yeah. Real life goes into what I write.

I guess that’s what they mean by “Write what you know.”

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.

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