An Absolutely True Story

Although he looks rather similar, this isn’t actually Ralph. My camera was lost overboard when the ship got caught in a bad storm.

There was a time, many years ago, when I struck out on my own and went backpacking in the rainforests of South America. The heat was sweltering, and the humidity stuck in my lungs, making every breath an effort of will. The group I was with consisted of a bunch of tree-hugger college kids, a missionary, and our guide. We called him Ralph, because, since he was a native, there was no way our American mouths could recreate the sounds of his actual name.

One week into the trip, a python strangled Ralph in his sleep. We were on our own. We tried to find our way back to civilization, but with Ralph gone, we walked in circles for three days. Our rations ran out by then. There was plenty of water, but we didn’t have the training to feed ourselves. The missionary girl, I think her name was Grace, volunteered to try some berries we found, hoping they weren’t toxic. Turns out they weren’t. But one got stuck in her throat and she choked to death. The Heimlich maneuver doesn’t always work.

One by one, the members of my party disappeared in the night or died terrible deaths. Alone, I reached the coast of a deserted beach. And there I was captured by pirates.

Six months of working for filthy pirates will change you. It was a long six months, believe me. I didn’t expect them to let me go so easily, but I guess they were tired of my cooking. Whatever the reason, I made it home safely, and never told a soul what happened to me. Until now.

It made me a better writer—a more sincere, honest writer. It changed how I saw the world.


Fine. That didn’t happen. But my life has been pretty tame, really. I have no great tragedies that shaped me. There’s been plenty of wonderful, and sure, a good share of heartache, but no individual event that caused my writing to take a drastic turn. I’ve had a broken heart a time or two. I’ve brought two beautiful babies into the world and watched them grow into beautiful adults. I’ve been married, divorced, and married again. The first wedding was lovely, and the marriage lasted ten years. The divorce was about the most amicable you can get. We never fought, and we’re still friends today. My second wedding day was private, gorgeous, and emotional enough that both of us alternated between laughing and crying through the ceremony.

I’ve moved cross-country and out of the country, each time leaving behind people I love, and meeting new ones I learned to love. I’ve had jobs I enjoyed but the companies closed down, jobs I hated where I stormed out and never went back. I’ve lost people I care about when their lives ended—through natural means, accidents, and self-inflicted injuries.

There is no one life event that shaped me. My entire life has been filled with events big and small.

Every one of them has made me who I am as a person–and as a writer.

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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