Everybody has an opinion.
Everybody reads a book from a different place, because we all come from very different places. We all have experiences, and know people with experiences, and all of those things shape the way we view the world.
My first published book was about a girl who had taken a year off of college becuase she had cancer. (THE NEXT DOOR BOYS). Now cancer free, she’s under more restrictions than the average new college student becuase of her health (and the conditions of the deal her parents made with her when she wanted to leave home).
I based Leigh on a couple of very specific people who had very similar recovery years. Was her experience everyone’s experience? Absolutely not. I’m prepared for people to tell me I got it spot on, and for people to tell me I got it all wrong. (and I’ve gotten both – more of the former, thankfully)
I wrote a girl with diabetes. Kate from THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU. I based every bit of Kate off of a very close friend of mine. I’ve had people write me to tell me that I got it all so perfectly right that they were thrilled, and other people say that my daibetes facts were off. The truth is, Kate’s journey is patterned off of a real person. Of course blood sugar highs and lows affect people in different ways. I wanted Kate to be authentic, so instead of following a textbook example, I followed a real person. And like I said, sometimes readers think I got it right, and sometimes they think I didn’t… But watching people close to me struggle with controlling this disease, made me want to write this book.
Joy, my character from STRONGER THAN YOU KNOW (releases in about 4 weeks) is one of my favorite-ever characters. Joy is an anomoly of hope in a situation where in reality, she might be all out of hope.
I’m once again writing about a tough topic (how do you live in normal after years of abuse?). And I’m sure that some people will send me notes to tell me how wonderfully I wrote this broken girl’s story, and some people will write me to tell me that my story is completely off. I will say that very early on in this book’s life (before agents even) I had a woman read this book and write me a letter about her experiences that will get me through anything bad someone has to say about Joy and her experiences.
And once again, i wish I could tell every reader that I use real people. I steal. Most authors are theives. We steal bits of conversations, stories, research, and characteristics to build our stories, our characters, our plot twists…
And I’ve read books where the whole time I thought, YES. Yes. Yes. YES! (Faking Normal and Faultline are the first two books that come to mind). Because Christa Desir (Faultline) and Courtney Stevens (Faking Normal) both tackled a very difficult topic, there were readers who were elated to see someone get it all right, and other people to say they got it all wrong.
But as authors jumping into hard topics (or even when we don’t) we’re putting our thoughts, and our research, and our stories on the page. Our children. Hundreds of hours of work. And the more personal a book is, the harder topics we tackle, the more critics there will be…