I recently joined Facebook and hooked up with some old classmates, who then went and read my first book UNINVITED. Several people messaged me to let me know they’d figured out which real life people characters were based on. I’ve gotten several “Was it weird writing about yourself like that?” and “Gabby is a combination of X and Y, right?” and “Oh, I know who Janine really is.” The answers are nope and nope and you couldn’t possibly. Let me explain.
1. Junk: When I first got the idea for UNINVITED, I imagined a vampire coming to the window of his ex-girlfriend and asking to be let in. What kind of girl would actually considering doing something crazy like that, I wondered. The immediate answer, sadly, was someone like me when I was in high school. So Jordan got my social anxiety, phone phobia, poor decision-making and risky behaviors—all my junk. That said, while I was writing the book, I never once felt like I was telling the story through my eyes. This was Jordan’s story. I didn’t imagine she looked liked me. Her room and her house weren’t like mine. Jordan didn’t have a pool in the backyard, and I didn’t have a tree just out my window. I simply took bits and pieces of me, but like a mad scientist, I created a new person complete with her own space and landscaping.
2. Gabby and Janine: Gabby and Janine did not exist in the first draft of UNINVITED. I gave my main character two guy friends—like I had in high school—and struggled with the fact that my critique group thought they sounded too much alike. An editor read the draft and thought Jordan should have girl friends instead. So Steve and Jay went the way of many a character—dearly departed and unceremoniously deleted. And I didn’t just change the boys’ names to girls, and he’s to she’s. I cut all of their dialogue, and thought up new characters. Like Gabby, my guy friends in high school were the masters of snark, but so was my brother, some of my college friends, and a lot of my grown up friends. I know a lot of snarky people and have a great well of snark to dip from that is not limited to two particular people in high school.
3. Rachel: Rachel popped up in the story as a counter point to Steve and Jay who were then replaced by Gabby and Janine. I wanted Rachel to be different. She was a breast baring Amazon with wild hair, an obsession for healthy eating despite partying like a rock star, and a thing for self-help books. Several friends thought they knew just who Rachel was based on. I did have a vegetarian friend with wild hair, but I also have several family members and in-laws who purged meat from their diet while um, well, I’d better not say. There were any number of people—me include—who took their tops off after a few beers (or at the beach—thank God we didn’t have cell phones with photo capabilities back then) and one classmate who regularly stripped at each and every party.
4. Yeah, but that was real! Yes, a few real things did make it into the book. It’s set in my hometown, though I borrowed elements from different beaches for the big show down for plot purposes. There was a mega-party house owned by someone who didn’t go to our school, and I’m still not clear how we knew the guy. The drama club did perform Dark of the Moon and someone really did put dog excrement in the mud the witches put in their faces. One line in the book was actually uttered by a popular girl to me in the girl’s locker room—but the girl wasn’t dressed in only a thong. I couldn’t tell you what she was wearing, but I can hear her words vividly in my head.
5. Puzzle Pieces: OK, comparing the creation of characters to putting puzzle pieces together is just about as lame and cliché as you can get, but I went to bed at 3:00 AM after a trip to the city to see The Little Mermaid and I’m fried. Characters are created from pieces that are familiar and pieces we make up, but I was so glad my second book, REVEALERS, was about witches ’cause no one I knew was casting spells or fighting demons in high school.