A vivid memory I have is of a time when I was twelve years old and I had just finished a creative writing homework assignment for Mrs. Abello, my English teacher, at the kitchen table when my father walked in the front door with his brother, my Uncle Steve, and his friend, Ski. I remember being pleased with my fantasy short story and wanting my dad to read it. He did of course, but not before Ski picked it up. I was confused as to why he’d want to read it, after all, I was just his buddy’s niece, but he was polite and read it through. He made the appropriate facial expressions, a small smile, a nod of his head, so my nervousness at having an outsider read my work eased. Upon finishing, he said that he enjoyed the story, but if I wanted to be a great writer, I had to write true stories.
Ski’s words stuck with me, and even though I write fantasy, in The Celtic Prophecy series, there are character details based on real people in my life: Brenawyn McAllister was an English teacher, as am I; Leoncha Callaghan’s mannerisms were modeled after my paternal grandmother, Margaret Hughes Roziewski; and Maggie’s youthful exuberance after my daughter, Elizabeth Macfie. I hope by including these details it gives my characters depth and enables my readers to fall in love with them.
There are also snippets of anecdotes, “the name of the shade of lipstick that Mom wore, and how Aunt Mary would roll down her knee-high stockings and bunch her pants about the knee when it was hot” is reminiscent of my maternal grandmother, Mary Ogarek; and “Liam’s faded cut-off sweatpants, complete with a hole in the right leg” is a reference to my husband’s sleep shorts that he has had for as long as I have known him. On a larger scale, scenes such as the bathroom scene in chapter 1 of Fate’s Hand contain a shred of truth to an incident in my life. The Natasha and Nastralia chicken anecdote from Reliquary’s Choice was adapted from stories my mother told me about growing up on a farm. I think they add another layer to the characters and fill the scenes with imagery.
I’ll never know whether these details infused within my fictional storyline meet with his approval, but his words resonated and I like to think that I captured the essence of his advice to me.