Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Inspiring people... by Cathy Ace

With "half" of Annie Parker!
LIFE: Do family and friends and their lives become fodder for your stories and, if so, do they ever recognize themselves and complain?

I suppose the most honest answer to this question is that every single person I have ever known or met – even fleetingly – has, in some way, become food to nourish my writing. I write about people, and people are my fascination in life. I cannot help but observe, filter, and eventually use everything I see and experience. 

I base some main, and most subsidiary characters, on a synthesis of several people I know in real life. Those whose physical characteristics stick with me and get used might be less well-known to me, but those whose psyches I dredge, and elaborate upon, tend to be closer. They don’t usually recognize themselves a) because I have physically “disguised” them, and b) because few of us are sufficiently self-aware to see ourselves as others do. If they do recognize themselves, or if I tell them about how they have become part of one of my characters they have - every one of far - been delighted.

1981: One of these flatmates inspired "part of" Carol Hill in the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries

So, yes, people I know do, in and of themselves, inspire my characters. What about their life stories? To a certain extent, yes. But I have often found that truth is far stranger than any fiction that would prove acceptable to readers, so I quite often have to “tone it down” or leave out parts of lives, because readers just wouldn’t “buy it”. For example, I have a friend who is a total “disaster magnet”. Maybe you know someone like that too? Someone whose entire life has been beset by truly dreadful things – most of which have been beyond their control. People DO get struck by lightning more than once in their life. For me the fascination is why they ended up in circumstances where that was even a possibility…and by that thread often hangs a story about poor or at least questionable choices…

Another thing I have done is to use some real names of people, with their blessing...though sometimes with a funny outcome. If you've read THE CORPSE WITH THE PLATINUM HAIR you'll have met Arthur Sauber and his wife Joan. Here I am with the real Arthur and Joan Sauber; they thought it was hilarious that the character bearing Arthur's name was the finance controller for a Vegas casino, as neither of them has ever placed a bet in their lives!
With Joan & Arthur Sauber in 2008
I was inspired by a few real people, and a real place, when I wrote THE WRONG BOY...but I cannot tell you about the people. At. All. So here's the real place - Rhossili in Gower, near Swansea. This is the original of the photo used on the cover of the book.

Photo by Emma Mugford
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Terry said...

Cathy, this was a great post. Everybody is fair game...but their stories not so much.

Cathy Ace said...

I really try to respect their experiences, and hope a good few layers of filtration do that :-)