Sex, crimes and a writer’s mantra
by Cindy B. Wells
It’s a common lesson for writers; for some, it’s a mantra. As well, it’s a reliable point of reference to use as a tool while you chase after that elusive story—that glorious plot—that taunts and teases your mind until the walls break down and words flow. Say it with me…Write what you know.
I suppose it’s related to that old question about nature versus nurture. Does your imagination naturally run wild with stories inspired by few or no prompts from the outside world? Or do you base your writing on your experiences, relationships, destinations you have visited, people you know, and so on? And in the case of writing erotic romance, are the scenes real, or fantasy?
Hard as Mason is a combination of both. Clearly, it is a fictional story. Still, one of the fun things about writing contemporary romance is incorporating well-known places and events. I’m very familiar with the settings I described in my book: San Francisco, Marin County, and down the coast in beautiful Monterey and Carmel. Certainly, it helps that I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area; I lived in Marin and worked downtown…on California Street where Laura and Mason work together.
I worked just down the street from the Embarcadero Center where I would go sometimes during lunch to look out at the massive "ugly as hell (but in a good way)" fountain in Justin Herman Plaza: a place that holds many fond memories. (You can find pictures of the fountain on my Pinterest San Francisco board: http://bit.ly/1u8TSXL). So when Laura is looking out the window from her friend Jerry's office, you could say I was in her head just as much as she was enjoying my memories. Using familiar settings helps to create an authentic reading.
I can’t speak for all writers, but when I write a character, they become part of me and I feel what they feel. The experience, I imagine, is comparable to how an actor dives into their character while they are portraying the part for a play or movie. The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to mind. I saw an interview about his role in the movie “Capote.” He spoke about how he completely transforms into the character for the duration of the filming, and then when the last scene is called, the character is gone. It sort of feels that way when you write a story.
But my “write what you know” details go beyond including familiar places. I enjoy filtering in experiences from my work as a newspaper crime reporter. Without giving anything away, while Mason and Laura’s story is fictional, sadly an integral part of their story is based on truth as their romance transforms into a nail-biting dark suspense.
As I tell their story, I don’t call upon a single police story I covered for the paper, but these types of crimes do happen in the world. And the frequency of these crimes can be overwhelming when one reports them.
Outside the newsroom, the readers may find it distasteful or offensive, but a method to wrapping one’s mind around the horrible occurrences in the world is to crack jokes; sometimes immediately after an incident, even when someone is killed in the process. No, I’m not going to reveal those newsroom gems. There are two fields of work that require a slightly deranged sense of humor, and I have worked in both: media and politics.
Another method I use to deal with the most intense scenes and issues is to call upon elements from those many stories and apply them to my fictional writing. In that sense, writing becomes a cathartic experience. I’d just assume write my way to recovering from the sight of horrible incidents like seeing someone’s brains splattered on the ground (don’t worry…I did not put that in this book). I suppose that's better than diving into a bottle of booze down to the worm or practicing worse habits.
Of course, I must admit, while I was writing this book, I did partake in my share of wine. My favorites included a private reserve from B.R. Cohn—a friend gave us the bottle a while back, and just enough dust had settled on the dark glass—delicious dessert wines from Husch Vineyards and Navarro Vineyards, and a Tawny Port from Brutocao that tastes wonderful with fresh fruit and chocolate. The latter three we picked up during a camping trip near Mendocino—that's my kind of camping. My BFF (since 1981!) suggested I was channeling Ernest Hemingway's muse.
Starting at a young age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved the idea of reflecting life through words as I tried to emulate Jack London: my first literary hero. It’s delightful being able to transform some of those reflections into fictional twists on reality.
So, if you have any desire to become a writer, a good place to start is writing what is familiar, and then let your mind go wild. Have fun, and I hope you enjoy Hard as Mason. Please, write a review so I know what you think of Laura and Mason’s story.
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