A GLIMPSE INTO THE MIND OF A WRITER
A lot of authors get asked the question: “What inspired X novel?” But to answer that question for my current release, Someone Like You, I think I’d like to go back a little and explain how everything got started for me—which includes an array of experiences from teaching, to global travel—even to visiting inmates in a federal prison in Brooklyn.
Travel with me for a minute—into the past. (Time travel: something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s right up there alongside flying with Superman).
I think a lot of us writers are people who have always loved to read and write. Ideas enter our minds at different speeds. Sometimes it’s as if the floodgates have risen, and other times, it’s more like a slow drip from a leaky faucet. But our minds keep spinning, we keep thinking and imagining. My husband says his favorite book title of mine is On the Edge—because living with me is like that. He says I have a knack for creating stories out of every possible situation. And part of that is true, but in other parts—if a guy approached your house in the middle of the night and was standing in front of your window while your husband was out of town—what would you think…?
Somehow I’ve managed to get myself into some dicey situations throughout my life, and yet, I always ended up coming out of them without a scratch. And a lot of these experiences have wound up in my writing.
When I was younger, I was the kid submitting poetry to Writer’s Digest in elementary school, the one who won the D.A.R.E. speech and had to read it to the town and mayor. I was also the kid who would pass out a chapter from my current book each week to my 8th-grade class like it was the latest episode of Saved by the Bell.
And I was also the teenager who wanted to make a difference in the world—and I tried it by volunteering and visiting inmates in a federal prison in Brooklyn. By the way, it’s not like the movies. The visiting room is one long room with several rows of chairs in it, and one wall has vending machines. The inmates, dressed in khaki and some in orange, sit side-by-side with their visitors. I still have their “numbers” memorized. “One, four, seven, O, nine, dash, O, five, seven.” I’d been saying the numbers for so long, and I always said the word ‘dash.’ I’m not sure if people speak in symbols like that, but whenever the numbers rolled off my tongue like butter melting on toasted bread, I’d say ‘dash.’ *Don’t worry I changed the above number for anonymity.
But from men who smuggled MDMA (ecstasy) in Lamborghinis from Europe to guys who joined a gang because they felt like they had no choice… I wanted to somehow help them. Motivate them to change. And that experience became a big part of who I am today—seeing this side of life it’s hard not to let it shape you.
My obsession with understanding people, as well as learning different worldviews and cultures, led me to major in history with a focus on Middle Eastern and Arabic studies in school. I was super close to joining the military given my knowledge on the climate of that region—but my arms wouldn’t allow for the push-ups (caused by two dislocated shoulders from sparring guys while a teen in martial arts). But…something I did do was travel. A lot. And my very first experience was to London to study abroad. Of course, my trip, sadly and tragically, was cut short. My mother had asked before I left, “what if a terrorist attack happens while you’re there?” And I had replied, “it won’t. Don’t worry.” Well, my friends and I were on our way to the Piccadilly Station to take the train, when one of my friends was mugged. We missed the train—and we missed the explosion. That was the London terrorist attack in 2005.
After I returned home and finished school, I joined a program called Teach for America. They send you to a high-needs area in the country, and you try to make a difference in the lives of the children in those schools and communities. And although my experience there was very rewarding, it was also highly stressful. My first week there my friend and I had a guy with a gun jump on the hood of our car at a light—demanding we keep driving because he was being chased by another gang. I called the cops, and they told me to “assess the situation and call them back.” Are you scratching your head at that response? Yeah, I still am…
But each of these moments, each of these times in my life, they’ve become part of who I am. From being hit by a garbage truck and destroying my car, to my Civic hitting black ice alongside a cliff, and I almost went off of it… (no injuries)—the little fragments and pieces somehow wind up inside my stories. Parts of me and my experiences shape the pages and get blurred between the lines, hidden within some of the dialogue.
And so, to answer the question—“What inspired Someone Like You?”—it’d be easier for me to say what didn’t…because everything in my life, everything I’ve seen, heard, and felt… it bleeds into my stories and makes them come alive. My love and respect for the military is one reason why I tend to write leads that were formerly active duty. From family members currently serving, to the boyfriends I dated who were in the Iraq War—I’ve had a lot of personal relations to the field. And anything I don’t know when writing I research extensively. I must have read at least ten non-fiction books about being a SEAL. Even though my character was only a SEAL in the prologue in Someone Like You, the SEAL mentality, attitude, and experiences needed to carry throughout his personality in the book. And it’s always important to me to reflect our military heroes accurately.
So, if you pick up one of my books, just know—there’s some truth to each of them. Sadly (and don’t tell my husband I said this!), but I never dated a sexy Irish billionaire who also was an underground fighter…but parts of that story in On the Edge are true—but I’ll leave it up to you to decide which parts. And of course, in Someone Like You, there are bits and pieces of my life sprinkled throughout. Some might say by adding parts of my experiences in fiction is less creative, but I disagree. I think it makes my books more real, more human.
So, thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoy my work!