Have you ever wondered whether authors who write about such dark, disturbing themes have a troubled past they're drawing from? Today, Lisa stops by the NOOK Blog to put an end to any such speculation about her own family history
Let’s start with one basic fact: I’m not weird.
Fact number two: neither is my family.
Maybe, but it’s the truth.
Why would I bring this up? Because of the books I write and the awful, twisted characters I bring to life, such as the characters in YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW where no one is who they seem to be, and the heroine who’s worried she’s suffering from paranoia, or is being haunted, seeing things, or a victim of her own family. There it is again, that word: family.
Once I had someone ask me if I had a very dysfunctional family, or a really awful, distant father or a cruel, emotionless mother? I was horrified!!! Nothing could be further from the truth! Because I write of lousy fathers, icy deadly mothers and murderous siblings, the person who asked the question assumed I was “telling my own story” or “exorcising my demons.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as I’ve never killed anyone, been a man in another lifetime, worked in a police department, had to make life or death decisions at the hand of a madman--I didn’t come from a dysfunctional family. My dad would be amused to have heard the question, let me tell you. Oh, my God, what a kind, fun-loving, and moral man (I know it sounds boring, but it’s just the way it was!). Mom was hard-working, earnest, and had a terrific sense of humor as well. Both of them: salt of the earth, and truth be told, I come from a long line of those kind of people; there are not many skeletons in my family’s closets, no matter how hard I look, and trust me, I’ve tried. Vigorously. To no avail.
Even my sister is great and oh, so normal. I only have one sibling, author Nancy Bush, who I refer to as Sister Nan, she’s my best friend. We work together, write together, walk together, and there’s not a lot of sibling rivalry, sorry. We “have words” from time-to-time, and as a teenager I thought Mom and Dad were so, so out of it, we had fights, but nothing out of the ordinary. No “Mommy Dearest” in my family.
Perhaps that might be one of the reasons I’m fascinated with highly dysfunctional families and write about them (besides, in a story, a lot of drama is necessary, right?). Sitting around the table eating peanuts and playing cards and joking…not so interesting! Now, put a knife in someone’s fingers when they get beaten at hearts, that’s a lot more interesting!
When I sat down to write YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW, I wasn’t drawing from personal experience so much as fascination and imagination, tempered with a tiny bit of my own feelings. When I became a mother the first time, I felt real vulnerability and fear— I was responsible for another person’s well being and safety—so I took from that. While writing this story I tried to convey those raw emotions in Ava, my heroine, a mother who’s lost her young son and is fighting paranoia. Once a strong, determined woman who backed down at nothing, now she is afraid she’s going mad because of the hallucinations or visions of her missing son, standing alone at the edge of a pier in the fog. Noah disappeared during the Christmas holidays and she feels immense guilt and remorse. The not-knowing of what happened to him has eaten at her, and she’s become a shell of the woman she once was. Though she refuses to think the worst about her young son’s fate, her life and her sanity are unraveling because of it.
Or are they?
She can’t determine if it’s her own mind playing tricks on her, or if there’s something deeply evil in the house, someone who is playing upon her worst fears. Ava’s family is filled with relatives and in-laws she doesn’t know if she can trust or not, to the extent that she’s afraid she’s being gas-lighted. She can confide in no one including her own husband who seems worried sick that she’s truly losing her touch with reality. But is he? Or is his concern just an act? She loved him once, but now, her feelings have changed.
She questions everything and everyone, but senses she can’t trust her cousins, nor her once-best friend. Even the psychologist whom her husband has hired to help her appears to have her own, secret agenda. Ava is isolated in the midst of a huge, once tightly-knit family.
As I said, Ava Church Garrison’s world is far different from the one I grew up in. While Ava, privileged from the get-go, lives in a huge, beautiful mansion on an private island with a secretive family, I was raised in a small timber town in Oregon.
I’ve always felt that every member of my family, including my sister, cousins, aunts and uncles could be depended upon in times of stress and need. Not so with the Church clan. Ava believes they are all against her and she fears no one is whom he or she appears to be, including herself.
See–lots more interesting than my own family.
While some of the settings in the book are created from memories in my childhood (the fish market, marina, jagged coastlines of the Pacific Northwest), the motivations of the people who live on or about Anchorville and Church island are light-years from anyone I’ve ever known.
Someone once asked me if I patterned my characters after people I know. Another person even told me, they knew who a certain character was in real life. Really? I don’t think so. My characters come alive in my brain. Certainly people I create are an amalgam of the people I’ve met in my life, with characteristics and traits I’ve observed, but they are uniquely my own, their “own” fictitious people, if that makes any sense.
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