I Write What I Know

One of the things a beginning author is always told is to “write what you know.”

Of course, that’s not true. If I’m setting a story in a place I don’t know much about–say, ancient Rome–Google is your friend. Just do the research. It’s all out there, and it’s free. Most of the time, anyway. That’s what I did for The Underground. The setting is Seattle and I’ve never been there. So I googled street maps, sunrise/sunset charts and temperature charts to figure out what time of year I wanted to set the story, stuff like that. And I talked to people–people who live there or who frequently travel to the city to get their take on its culture, nightlife, and so on. I spent a lot of time talking to a retired policeman who gave me lots of information and insight. None of it cost me a dime. It’s times like these when the internet is a wonderful thing.

Still, I think there are some things that the writer has to know, on a deep level, to pull off the story. That means the writer has to have personal knowledge, personal experience of what they’re writing about. For me, all my stories have an underlying message, messages that are borne of personal knowledge and experience. I don’t do this intentionally, but it always seems to happen. Most readers read for entertainment, and they may not “get” the underlying message. That’s fine. If they enjoyed my book, if it gave them a few hours release from the drudgery, I’m satisfied because it means I’ve done my job as an author. Message or no message, my primary goal is always to entertain.

Every so often though, a reader does “get” the message. The other day, I received a review about The Underground and the reader wrote: “A true love triangle with a background of intolerance that is eerily apt in today’s political climate.”

Bingo.

See, I know lots about intolerance and bigotry. I’ve been subjected to it all my life. Not as much as some people, but enough. And beneath The Underground’s fun stuff–the werewolves, vampires, witches, and aliens–that’s the story’s core.

I write what I know.

Ciao.

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