Switch-A-Wish is told from the points of view of a married couple, Chris and Amanda Claridge. As I prepare for the release (September 17), I’m also trying to prepare myself for the reaction my friends and families will have to the central relationship.
Based on reading Facebook posts and comments by other authors, people who know me and know my husband, Adam, will assume I’ve written a memoir. I took the classic advice people give new writers, “write what you know,” and now I’ve written myself into a position that makes it look like my marriage is in jeopardy.
Adam was my beta-reader and the first to realize this could be a problem. After reading the first draft he said he felt uncomfortable because everyone would think it was us. I had exacerbated the problem by giving Chris and Amanda physical characteristics that were reminiscent of me and Adam. I didn’t really do it on purpose. It’s just kind of how they turned out when I was writing.
I also made Amanda’s past occupation a journalist and Chris a college professor. Adam and I are both professors (I specialize in journalism). Adam is worried that our friends, family and colleagues will think he’s contemplated an affair with a student. I don’t blame him, it kind of looks that way.
In an attempt to offset this speculation, I thought it may be good to go on my blog and write a little about how I came to the story.
First, I grew up watching daytime television shows like Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey. My favorite episodes were the ones where people shared their personal stories. When Oprah launched Dr. Phil, I had found a daily dose of personal stories with a dose of real psychological insight. I love this stuff. When I was trying to determine what type of conflict would be at the center of Switch-A-Wish, I drew from my experience watching married couples struggling to connect. Looking outside the relationship to feel better seemed like a reasonable way a man would react. When I started to think of the way this would play out when my main characters switched bodies, I knew it was the way to go.
I didn’t have personal experience with an affair. I had heard of students who slept with their teachers, but it had never been something that was close to me. I turned to blog posts about these types of relationships. I read a post, written by a professor, which detailed his affair with a student. I read postings in a discussion group about students who had slept with professors. I read reports by psychologists about student/teacher relationships. This was how I built a body of knowledge I could use to explore the relationship between Chris and Jenna.
Another concern was writing about sex (see my guest blog post at Gina Wynn’s http://ginawriteswords.com/ for details). I didn’t want people to picture me having sex and I still don’t. The good news is that reading a book is a personal experience. So, if I did my job well, the reader will be so caught up in his or her own world that I won’t even be involved.
I wish I would have made different choices. I wish I would have changed the details of Chris and Amanda to make their marriage less like mine, but now it’s too late and I have to own it. My advice to people thinking about writing is to write what you know. But once in a while, it might be good to consider different occupations, or at least different hair colors.