Monday, August 4, 2014

Real Life Romance vs. Fiction

A replica of our cake from a year ago the 3rd...
When I first released my novel last summer, one question that I was kind of expecting was: Is it autobiographical at all?  I got this a lot from local acquaintances.  To which I always reply, "No."

My novel is pure fiction.  Sort of.  The only thing that I pulled from my real life was the large family the main character came from, and while I didn't realize it at the time, struggles with mental illness and my own religious/spiritual issues.  For starters, I am one of ten children; born of the same father but different mothers.  I didn't give either of my characters this many siblings, but both the Carman's and the Moore's have large extended families.  It's the kind of chaos I am familiar with.

And when it comes to the romance of the novel, while there are a few similarities it was written long before I ever met Mr. Janney.  There are far more differences than anything else.

Since I was also recently asked how I met my husband, by a Facebook friend who's an "imaginary friend" I've never met because she lives on the other side of the world, I thought I would share that story for those of you who don't know me and relate some of the similarities and differences.  Largely because it is 2am as I'm working on this first draft and I can't sleep because my mind keeps working on it and technically at this hour it is our anniversary already!

#1 - Like Craig and Angela in my novel (Farmer's Daughter) there is a ten year age difference between Mr. Janney and I.  However, in the novel, Craig is the older one and in real life...I'm the older one!  It caused far more drama in the beginning of our relationship in real life than it ever did in the novel, probably because it is still more socially acceptable for the male to be the older in the relationship.  Craig was worried about the age difference because of his past abuse; Mr. Janney's family had issues with it because what could an older woman want with a younger man other than sex?  Oh well.  We all got over it!

#2 - Craig and Angela met at work, just like Mr. Janney and I did!  However, neither of us were lucky enough to be the owner of a store or anything fancy like that.  We are just two hardworking American peeps who developed a friendship that turned into something more.  I had been working at the press facility of a local newspaper for almost 2 years when Mr. Janney was hired, and he had been there about 6 months when sparks flew.  Truthfully, we owe a lot of our relationship to our one supervisor who gave us a good push towards each other.  Our supervisor was privy to the fact that I had a crush on him, and when she was feeling him out to see if it might be returned, she told me how his face got this big dopey grin on it.  "Age is just a number," she said.

#3 - Quick trip to the altar.  Sort of.

        • Craig and Angela were married roughly 6 months after they met, Mr. Janney dumped me roughly 7 months after we started dating.  That lasted little over a week, because he did it for all the wrong reasons.  Later, after we got back together, I left for work early to surprise him by picking him up for work only to meet him on the road...riding his bicycle and trying to call me, not realizing all he had to do was look up!  He later told me how he had been asking God for a sign, at which point I reminded him of this incident and asked him how bigger of a sign he needed!  Unplanned and unaware of each other's intention, we were both trying to get a hold of each other just because we wanted to spend time with each other.

        • Once Craig asked Angela to marry him, not that long after admitting that they were indeed a "couple", they were married before 24 hours had passed.  I had him whisk her out to Vegas for that.  Mr. Janney never really asked me to marry him.  We had been discussing it with his parents after his great-grandmother's funeral, and two days later (Monday) he let me know that he had purchased wedding rings.  Oh, ok!!  Two days after that (Wednesday) after my birthday dinner, we had enough money for either the marriage license or a birthday cake.  He left it up to me and I chose the piece of paper.  Here in PA, we have a 72 hour waiting period before we can use it and then we have a month after that to tie the knot.  Well, at this point we had been a couple for five years, close enough, so I didn't see any reason to piddlefart around and we were married at a Justice of the Peace the first day the paper could be acted upon (Saturday).

        • Small wedding  Craig and Angela had only their closest friends stand with them.  We had our parents; both of his, and my mother.

        • Neither of us had a true honeymoon; Craig and Angela had a short stay in Vegas before coming home to Angela's kidnapping and coma; Mr Janney and I both had to be back to work on Monday.  I got a bit of ribbing for coming back from my vacation a married woman when I had been single when I left, but I had no idea what was coming when my week long vacation started!  Surprise!
Me posting by the new/pre-owned truck
that was a gift to my husband and I
from his parents.

So sometimes art imitates life, and sometimes life imitates art.  In my case, life often feels like abstract art.  But then I can take something simple and straight forward and twist my perspective just right and come up with something...well, abstract!

Granted, a writer draws from their life experiences, which is probably why there is a lot of naivety to the characters in my first novel.  In a lot of ways, I was writing about experiences I hadn't had yet. Okay, some I've never had - like being kidnapped or in a coma.  (knock on wood)  But that's where imagination comes in (and a passing knowledge of some basic psychology).  Google makes research so much easier than it used to be, so long as you find the right sights.

There will never be a perfect lineup of similarities between real life and fiction.  And that's the way it should be.  Just enough to let us know that the story isn't all that far-fetched.  After a story, we should be left thinking, "That could happen to me."

Because you know, it sometimes does.  (See pic of truck -- speechless!)

There are probably more comparisons I could make between my story and my real life relationship, because every relationship has different sides to it.  Differents shades of grey, different chapters.  Real or imaginary.  Just like no two books are alike, even on the same subject, so it is with relationships.

Never stop believing in the fairy tale moments of real life.

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