Friday Speak Out!: Writing With Family - All of Them, Guest Post by C. Hope Clark

Friday, February 07, 2014
Blogs and forums abound with discussions from mommy writers about how to address the urchins that run around interfering with our journeys toward bestseller-dom. Of course we love the brats. No questioning that at all. Like kittens, they’re cute and can’t help themselves. We write around them, knowing one day they’ll grow up and allow us more time to create.

But what do you do when they are in their twenties and still in the way? And what about parents? Sisters, uncles and cousins? Once you publish a book or two, invariably your predecessors, successors, as well as those on the odd bent branches of the family tree, get in your way. And they are not as forgivable as kittens.

When I released Lowcountry Bribe, the first in my Carolina Slade Mystery Series, family and friends devoured the book, pointing out which character was which relation, enjoying the inside joke they thought they knew. (Except for my mother, who ordered me never to write about her.) My son asked why I made him a girl. The assumption was I had to be the protagonist and my husband the romantic interest. They pointed out “errors” in the story, telling me my children were never kidnapped, so why put that in the book? I developed a list of one-liners in response to these reactions, the main one being, “It’s fiction, people. That means pretend.” They’d roll their eyes as if they knew better.

When Tidewater Murder came out a year later, they quizzically scratched their heads. “Who is this?” they’d ask. “When did this happen?” Only one new character went into that book with a slight resemblance to a dear friend, a friend who’d challenged me to include him. The story was the purest fiction I’d ever written. “What?” they asked. “What fun is that?” “You sure this isn’t (FILL IN BLANK) from Mississippi?”

The public, and therefore our relatives, think every tale of fiction is rooted in reality, and some instances probably are. We use our experiences as catalysts. But we avoid the use of clones, resumes, and biographies taken from our family tree for obvious reasons . . . hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and the potential for misrepresentation. But what is it about family fearing they are, yet wanting to be, subjects in a book?

Maybe it’s that desire for the proverbial 15-minutes of fame. Maybe it’s a way of feeling honored by being blood-kin to a famous author (tongue-in-cheek there). Maybe they can’t let loose of reality to spin fable, and don’t understand those who do.

Palmetto Poison is Slade’s third story, and this time she is full-bore investigating the most complex case of her life. Enter her boyfriend, his ex-wife (also an agent), his sister, Slade’s sister, kids, and a complete family feuding cornucopia of families she investigates for murder, drugs, and political favors.

My family won’t know what hit them.

* * *
C. Hope Clark is editor of, reaching 45,000 readers each Friday with her online newsletters. The website has been chosen by Writer's Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 13 years. But Hope's personal bucket list included publishing mystery fiction. She's the author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, with the third, Palmetto Poison, just released through Bell Bridge Books. Available wherever books are sold. /

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Hope--Do you find that people never claim a character is modeled after themselves if the character's face is covered with hairy warts or they're an adulterer or they're a nonworking slug? (Although they possibly can point at someone else and say the character is them.)

Wow--I am behind. I read the first, and loved it, but didn't realize the third was so quick in coming. I'd better get caught up...

Margo Dill said...

Hope, this made me smile! I love that your family thinks they are in every book. My family has never said a word about it--does that mean they haven't read my book? :) Imagine that. Everyone says the front cover looks like I did when I was a girl but the artist and I did not know each other at all, so I think people are just looking for a resemblance. Anyway, congrats on your 3rd Slade book and like Sioux, I am also behind. But I have one of those urchins running around (and a dog, too) so. . .enjoyed this!

Hope Clark said...

It's funny how my family does all this. A new character in Palmetto Poison, Wayne's sister, is named after my sister-in-law because she whined I did not have a character for her. Her brother (my husband) said watch out what you ask for, because she could wind up being a crack whore or something. My SIL said that would suit her if the character is named after her. Well...guess what Wayne's sister was known for? LOL Can't wait for her to read it. She's already called, asking if she can preorder because she suspects she's in this one. Maybe my family is just crazy, but they all watch for their cameos in these stories.

Karen Lange said...

Had to chuckle over this. I can see some in my family doing the same on that someday when my novel comes out. Come to think of it, I have a handful of friends who might do it too...:)

Lisa Tiffin said...

Hilarious, Hope! I gave a nod to a college mentor and recently sent him a copy of the book. He loved being included - and he even got to be the good guy!!

Renee Roberson said...

Very funny! This was a great read, Hope. I have to admit I worry about my friends and family speculating on whether or not characters are based on them if any of my books ever get published! I'm behind and haven't read the Carolina Slade series but I have a huge Amazon gift card credit right now that should help me get caught up. I love a good mystery!

Anonymous said...

This was great!
Last fall I had an article in Quilters World. It was about some 1934 friendship quilt squares I have. I wrapped up the feature with some basic directions to make your own friendship quilt. I needed photos and examples -- so, of course I used a visit with my mom visiting my kids & grandkids for the photos in the quilt examples.
My mom has gotten over three months of fame from this. She's in a square with my son & everyone she knows has seen the article. I don't think she knows what the article says (I know she does, she's my biggest fan), but everyone, including the ladies at church, the people in the copy/mail store, her manicurist, doctors office ... have ALL seen this article.
Good idea Hope, maybe I'll have to put my mom in a book.
Trisha Faye

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