Guest Post by Deborah Michel
BUT DID IT REALLY HAPPEN?
People often assume that what happens in a novel—especially a first novel—happened to the author in real life. My husband was particularly concerned about this because my first novel, Prosper in Love, is about a young couple whose supposedly happy marriage goes south. It has attempted seductions, trouble-making in-laws, social climbing friends. If people assumed that too much was based on my own life, I was going to be in trouble. But here’s my dirty secret: Some of it was.
Have you ever heard of “alternate history” novels? They’re the ones where the plot is based on history turning out differently than it actually did—like there turning out to be lots of Hitler clones running around Ira Levin’s novel The Boys from Brazil. There’s no cloning and no Hitler in my romantic comedy, but the idea for it originally came to me when I happened to wonder what would have happened if one night my husband and I somehow failed to make up after one of those repetitive arguments married couples tend to have. (Please tell me it’s not just us.) What would happen if one time when I said—okay, screamed, “Fine, maybe you want a divorce,” and he yelled back, “Maybe you do!” we somehow didn’t end up with teary-eyed “I love you” and “I love you, too!”
Then I started wondering, under what circumstances could that possibly happen? How about if the misunderstanding started when my characters were separated physically, by a business trip, maybe? Or if every time they were about to make up, something—maybe even their own worse impulses or pride—intervened? Prosper in Love was born.
If you read my second chapter, you’ll know under exactly what circumstances my husband first said “I love you.” And yes, I had to prompt him, just the way fictional Lynn prompts her soon-to-be husband Jamie Prosper. Like Jamie, my husband doesn’t enjoy going out to dinner nearly as much as I do. There have been real-life bad feelings between us over the importance of his job vs. mine, although to be fair I barely earned a penny as a struggling writer, let along snagging a million-dollar check for any boss of mine, the way Lynn does in the book. And, yes, my husband and I come from very different families. I’m afraid that some of Jamie and Lynn’s arguments are taken all too directly from life. Or at least from my memory’s version of it.
Are Lynn and Jamie Prosper really just me and my husband? No. They might share the raw materials—certain details, likes and dislikes—the way clones share DNA. (I guess I couldn’t escape clones after all.) However, we are shaped by experiences and environment as well as by DNA, literary or otherwise, and my fictional marriage diverged early on from my real one. At some point while writing, my characters burst mysteriously and magically into life for me—into their own lives.
Big thanks to Deborah for stopping by! Please visit her website for more information on her and Prosper in Love