Monday, January 7, 2008


I received an email from an old friend who is a book reviewer. His comment upon finishing The Wives of Marty Winters was “Not bad, although it was impossible to read it without picturing you, Gabi, etc. in the characters. Of course, I didn't know the middle-aged transsexual, but I kept picturing John Lithgow anyway ;-)”

Interesting comment that brings up some interesting thoughts about how much a fiction writer should draw on personal experience. In my more self-critical moments I feel that my last two novels, and especially the latest, were more autobiographical than my first one. Lew Hamburg, in a review for the Olympian, called my second novel, Imprudent Zeal, “a tour de force of autobiographical fiction.” But, in fact, only one small section of that book was autobiographical, and I acknowledged it in an author’s note in the book. It was the section about Scully McDonald and Everything for Everybody. It was based on Jack Scully and the organization of the same name he founded and Gabi and I worked for. But Scully’s complete history from childhood through young adulthood -- including his relationship with the drug addict/prostitute Becca -- was 100 percent imagination, as were the complete life histories of Becca and her daughter, McKenzie.

As for seeing me and Gabi in The Wives of Marty Winters, those characters were based on people we have known –- primarily Carolyn Wagner, a dear friend and former national PFLAG vice president and a tireless warrior in the battle against bias-based violence. This is really a PFLAG story, and Marty and Selena are every PFLAG family.

Still, I have been thinking for quite some time now that my next work of fiction needs to be far more imaginative and that I need to challenge myself to construct a story that does not draw on personal experience. With that in mind, I have already written a synopsis and an opening chapter of a new novel with the working title The Backside of Nowhere.

Stay tuned.

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