Friday, March 29, 2013

Yes, Up To A Point...

Do I use pieces of my personal life like hobbies and favorite restaurants, etc. in my books?  Absolutely! Odelia, the heroine of my Odelia Grey mysteries, loves cheesecake and drinks copious amounts of unsweetened ice tea, as do I. She loves cats. Me too! She's overweight, middle-aged and works in a law firm as a paralegal. Yeppers over here! And we're both California Notaries.

The 7th Odelia book
In fact, a lot of people who know or meet me say when I speak, they hear Odelia. Or when they read the books, they hear me. Odelia is my alter ego. The Walter Mitty side of me who gets to discover dead bodies and solve crimes while I sit at a computer all day and work on increasing my vitamin D deficiency.  After all, why reinvent the wheel when you already have one rolling along without a hitch. Many of the places and restaurants she visits in the various books, I've visited already, some many times. It's fun to incorporate pieces of my life into that series.

But, and there's always a but, and I'm not talking about my big butt (also like Odelia's), there is a place where I draw the line.

The 3rd Granny book
Since both Odelia and I are seasoned paralegals, I'm often asked if I put bits of my paralegal career into the books, along with people I either work with or have worked with. To that I say absolutely NOT. And there are two reasons for this.

Anyone working in law, either as an attorney or paralegal, or any position for that matter, must respect confidentiality, not only of their current employer but past employers. Yes, I could change names to protect myself, but I'd like to think I'm a creative enough writer not to have to draw on past cases I've worked on to write a book. Now that doesn't mean I can't get ideas from past experiences, but I can honestly say that next to the jams Odelia gets into, my day job working in health care law is as boring as watching Lindsay Lohan go to rehab ... again.

Newly released Granny
Apples novella
The second reason is self-preservation. I like my job. I work with nice people who pay me well. I intend to be at my current job until it's time for me to retire. The last thing I want is to put someone's nose out of joint by having them think I killed them off or made them the bad guy just because they didn't refill the paper towels in the firm kitchen when they took the last one, or messed up my job at the copy machine, or asked me to work late on a holiday weekend. No, sireee. Not me. Did I mention I like my job? Not that I'd get fired, but I'd also like my work place to be as drama-free as possible.

Then there's my Ghost of Granny Apples series. The heroine of those books, Emma Whitecastle, is tall, thin, blond and gorgeous. She's the wealthy ex-wife of a TV star and has her own show on cable. Now that is totally me!  At least it will be in my next life.


Anonymous said...

You rock, Sue Ann. Thanks for sharing!! Happy Easter!
Abbe xoxo

Catriona McPherson said...

I wonder how you get on writing a beanpole? I'm tall (but wide - more of a tree trunk) and writing a dainty 1st person protag I had to go through all the scenes in my head and try to see them from a lower perspective . . . have her climb on chairs to check tops of wardrobes and move driving seats forward etc etc.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Catriona, I haven't had any problems writing about a tall thin blond. I think it's because inside I am one! :) The bigger issue has been writing someone who has access to a lot of money. I've had to do a lot of research to make sure she's dressed well, goes to the right places, etc. I did make her down to earth though so I didn't have to get all Beverly Hills about it. But living so close to all that upscale consumerism has helped.

Reece said...

As someone who also inhabits the health law world, I won't argue that it can get a little, well, sleepy. It's a good thing we have vivid imaginations. And, OF COURSE, we NEVER base any of our characters on our actual law firm colleagues.

Maryanne Birch said...

Have any of your co-workers asked to be in books. I wonder if that could be a problem. I know I would love to read a book and say hay that's me. I know its never going to happen but I have had an author use my name she was stuck and mine fit. it was a vary long time ago and was only the name my family uses not the one I use every day. But still it was fun.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Many of my co-workers have asked to be in my books as characters or have asked for loved one's names to be included. I "sell" those names by asking them to donate to a charity and character names in my books have raised a lot of money for various charities. Once in awhile I'll put someone in as a gift, but I'd never use their name without them knowing first.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Reece, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz, especially the hours of due diligence I've been doing lately.