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I’m In There, Too

As a novelist, I'm often asked, How much of you is in your characters? I can answer honestly – a lot. I was a teenage waitress like Hope Yancey in Hope Was Here; I was in sales like Jenna in Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward; I've struggled to grow a big dream like Ellie in Squashed; played pool and battled bullies like Mickey in Sticks; wondered why I am the way I am like Ivy Breedlove in Backwater; was too tall in junior high, though much shorter than Tree, the protagonist in Stand Tall; I care about the fight for truth like Hildy Biddle in Peeled; I desperately wanted to be popular like A.J. McCreary in Thwonk.  But what about your mean characters, people ask. What about the bad ones?  Are you in there, too?

Well, I'd like to say, of course not — I do lots of research on difficult people. I research my characters with all I've got. But the truth is, yeah, I'm in there, too. I pull out my greedy parts, my anger, my moments of meanness and selfishness and madness, and those times when I think the whole world revolves around me. I used to be afraid to write what I know; I was scared to mention the things that have hurt me. In that department, I have much more to write about, but bit by bit, the stories form, packed with personal truth. Being a novelist has given me a great gift — it's shown me not to be afraid of the things that have hurt me because so many people are hurting, too.