The old adage “write what you know” certainly applies to me with my twin careers as a writer and an actor. My mystery romance series is set in Hollywood and features a veteran actress, Meg Barnes, who once starred in a popular TV series playing amateur sleuth, Jinx Fogarty. I began my career as an actress playing Josette DuPres in the classic Gothic daytime series Dark Shadows, which has a cult following to this day. I completely relate to Meg Barnes, who knows that no matter what other roles she plays in her career, she will always be known as Jinx Fogarty. Thanks to my role playing the fiancé of vampire Barnabas Collins, I will always be remembered as Josette.
Yesterday, I spent several hours unraveling a sweater I’ve started over three times. It’s the easiest pattern I could find, yet I can barely seem to get past casting the stitches onto my needles.
If only I were Hannah, one of the characters in my new novel, Haven Lake, I wouldn’t have this problem. Hannah is an expert knitter and even raises her own Icelandic sheep, because that’s her favorite kind of wool.
Several years ago, the film version of Pride and Prejudice was released with a different cast from the popular BBC series, the premise being five daughters with little fortune need to marry a wealthy man. However, Elizabeth Bennett wants a marriage filled with love and turns down the reverend cousin, the male who inherits, in her quest.
Her eye catches William Darcy, a very rich boy who’s quiet, thoughtful, a good friend and quite prideful and prejudiced. It doesn’t help that he thinks she, too, is prideful and prejudiced. Quite the conundrum that could have easily kept them apart…until they begin to see the true qualities in each other. Near the end (spoiler alert!), Darcy finds her and says, “You have bewitched me, body and soul.”
What’s the one writing prize I really don’t want to get? The Bad Sex in Fiction award, offered every year by Britain’s Literary Review “for the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction.”
It’s not like I’ve yet been in extreme danger of receiving this honor. My sex scenes are not of the anatomical and bodice-ripping sort. I don’t even write in genres such as romance.
I write contemporary fiction, with some works a bit more in the literary fiction realm than others. But that doesn’t put me out of the danger zone. If anything, now that I think about it, I’m right in the bull’s eye. My stories focus on relationships, and many are romantic relationships. In order to properly build these relationships, sex has to make its grand entrance at one point or another.
Most of us writers are voracious readers. And man, do we love our characters and our authors. From day one, right? From the moment when the word “LOOK” (for those of us who began our reading careers with Dick, Jane and Sally) first clicked in our brains and we lit up like little Christmas trees, to last night when we cuddled in bed with our newest favorite crush. (For me it’s Miranda July and last week it was Atul Gawande.) So what happens when we have to lower the boom? Breaking up is hard to do.
One of the great expressions about fiction writing is that “We tell untruths to arrive at truths.”
That’s why I started writing novels, and especially that’s why I started writing medical thrillers.
Doctors save lives. We deliver babies and save babies. We help prevent disease, we treat disease, and we can often cure disease. The power of life and death is often in our hands.
The problem is that power can corrupt, and some doctors, unfortunately, are not immune to the kind of corruption that human nature permits.