Sunday, November 4, 2012

My novel BLUFF and me

A psychic told me when I was working on the first draft of my debut novel, BLUFF that it would essentially be the one novel that encapsulated the story of my life.
  Huh? Somehow I didn’t see how my protagonist, a 40-year old, pregnant lesbian being kept alive by medical intervention, could echo any part of me. But the truth is, while I am nothing like her, she and so many other characters in BLUFF, carry me inside of them.
  When we write novels, though they technically are fiction because we make them up, we authors draw heavily from our own human experiences in order to flesh out our characters and then breathe life into them. I can relate to each one of my characters in BLUFF: My protagonist’s self consumption, her best friend Frances’ blind loyalty, her nurse Mary Shannon’s hard-hearted approach to her life, Hank’s single-minded need to be the devoted husband, and even Paul’s duplicity.
   Every character has to come from somewhere. And while I have drawn liberally from those I have known and created composites of them in my characters, I have also injected a little bit of me. Right down to their idiosyncrasies. For example, Frances has a habit of drawing her hand through her hair when stressed. So do I.  When Jude is having one of her arguments with her mother Gay some of that dialogue is lifted from actual arguments between my own mother and me—in tone and phrasing.
    Parts of me also filter into the actual scenes in many of the chapters. Images that I have seen, felt, tasted and examined. The first line: “Horror has a taste.” That has particular meaning for me because I can even describe that taste for you—a bitter, burning bile that prompts a gagging reflex. The hospital scenes, all of them from the Emergency Room to ICU, come from my own experiences in hospitals over the years dealing with the illnesses of my grandparents, parents and best friend. Anyone who has spent time with a terminally ill loved one knows that hospitals are universes within a universe.
   Having written both nonfiction and now fiction, I have to say, in my humble opinion, novels are the much more formidable task. When I wrote the biography of Ida Lewis, (“Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter,” Globe Pequot) America’s most famous female lighthouse keeper, it was all based on historical fact. The biggest challenge I faced was that she didn’t keep a diary, so I had to really dig to find her voice, her person. But once I found it, the biography basically wrote itself. Because it was her story, from start to finish. I couldn’t change the ending or even adjust her character development.
   Novels are amazing things. They allow for so many choices and give us authors the remarkable opportunity to embed ourselves in them, in essence, preserve ourselves forever through the very characters we create. 

You can reach Lenore Skomal and check out her blog and other books at her website,, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Goodreads


Debby said...

I think very author puts a little bit of them selves into a book. The book is personal to them.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Molly said...

I think every novelist has a part of them within their characters :)

Thanks for sharing this awesome post!

molly at reviewsbymolly dot com