Last week I wrote a little about my inspiration for my upcoming novel about books, love, and Jane Austen, First Impressions. Now I’d like to point out that, just because you see and event or a house in the text that reminds you of something from my life, it doesn’t mean I am writing about you in the book. Case in point. In the early pages of First Impressions, Sophie’s mother hosts a sculpture show in her garden. The show is described like this:
The sculptures were indeed hideous. It looked as if the artist had made plaster casts of the most unattractive people he could find, and then broken off body parts and scattered them around the garden. Arms hung from trees, heads floated in the pond, legs grew up next to the rose bushes. It was supposed to be some sort of social statement. As far as Sophie and Victoria were concerned it was a statement that the artist should get into another line of work.
Now, those who know me well might know that some very dear friends of ours in England hosted a sculpture show in their garden two years ago, before I started working on First Impressions. And yes, the idea for a sculpture show in an English garden came from that knowledge (I wasn’t there myself). But that’s where the resemblance between fiction and real life ends. The horrid sculptures in First Impressions are nothing like the photos I saw of the sculptures in our friends’ garden, and Sophie’s family certainly bears absolutely no resemblance to our lovely friends.
Luckily I had a chance to prove all this when, after First Impressions was written and sold, our friends decided to repeat the sculpture show experience and we happened to be in residence in England at the time. We got to help out with the opening night party and we worked one day in the café (it was quite an operation and well worth the effort—we came home with the yummiest brownie recipe ever). Whenever the sun came out (it was England after all) I dashed around the six acres of garden with my new digital camera taking pictures. The results more than prove that the quality of the sculpture far exceeded that in the Collingwood garden.
Like many things in an work of fiction, my sculpture show in the Collingwood garden began with a fragment from my own experience, but quickly evolved into a fully imagined fictional scene. So, when people ask me if my work is based on real life and can say without equivocation—absolutely yes and absolutely no!