Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

True Life Experiences in Fiction

by Nancy J. Cohen

“How much of your books are true stories from your own life?” Writers are often asked this question. In response, I’d say that many of our personal experiences inspire our stories. For my current work in progress, our problems with bathroom renovators inspired the tale. The job took forever, and we wasted many days waiting for workmen to show up who didn’t arrive until several days … or even weeks … later. The foreman wasn’t good at communicating with customers and this caused us a great deal of aggravation. Then again, I asked a lot of dumb questions. The finished job was worth the annoyance, however, and we got past it. Not so in my 17th Bad Hair Day mystery, where Marla’s mother finds a dead guy in her partially renovated shower. The foreman has met one irate customer or colleague too many.

Other stories find inspiration from past events. Hanging by a Hair came about after we had an altercation with a neighbor. Marla’s poodle, Spooks, has a tick problem in another book that we’d encountered with our pet. A car accident that I was in made it into another story, although this one was a deliberate attempt to wipe Marla off the road. In Died Blonde, she visits a medium in Cassadaga and gets a spiritual reading, similar to the one I got when we stayed overnight in this Central Florida town.

Our travels have also taken us to many places in these stories. It’s fun to write about sites we’ve seen and adventures we’ve had. This was especially true in Killer Knots, my Caribbean cruise story, and in Peril by Ponytail, my award-winning Arizona tale. I’ve been to every port described in the first book and to every tourist attraction mentioned in the second one. And yes, I had mysterious orbs show up in my digital photos from down in the copper mine similar to what Marla finds on her camera.

We can’t help infusing our stories with our personal life experiences. Of course, we twist them to serve their purpose in a fictional tale. But the basis in reality helps you live through this adventure with us.

Do you like authors to talk about their research and what experiences in a story were real? What’s the best one you remember?

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