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Stealing from real life

Something Missing is a work of fiction. Even so, there are elements of my own life contained therein. Several characters are loosely based upon friends and acquaintances, certain plotlines vaguely resemble actual moments in my life, and specific incidents and locales inspired parts of the story.

Sometimes I think that Something Missing is little more than personal therapy wrapped up in humor, suspense and story. And the new book is shaping up in much the same way.

Obviously it’s common for authors to draw from real life experiences. That awful cliché Write what you know has some truth to it. And while Something Missing, as well as my current manuscript, are most certainly fiction (despite what some members of my wife’s family might suspect… I am constantly asked if I was some kind of a thief in my past), certain themes and elements are taken from my own life.

Take my mother-in-law, for example.

EBay, the online auction site, plays a small but somewhat significant role in my book. When it came time to research EBay, in order to ensure the veracity of the details surrounding this online world, I turned to Barbara, my mother-in-law, who is an EBay power seller, for advice. Barbara has created a small business for herself through EBay, and listening to her speak about it is like attending a Pentecostal tent revival. She loves EBay and might be convinced that EBay will someday save the world.

Through her business, she has managed to make friends with women from around the world, and she takes genuine pleasure in selling high end handbags and fashion at a fraction of the retail price to women in states like North Dakota or countries like Tanzania like that suffer from a tragic lack of Prada boutiques and Coach outlets. I sometimes wonder if she even cares about the profit. It’s almost as if she thinks of herself as a fashion ambassador, bringing high end goods to women in need.

Not being at all fashion conscious and finding the mere existence of a $500 handbag offensive and insane (and this coming from a guy who carries a bag), I turned to Barbara when it came time to write the chapter dealing with EBay. More precisely, I turned to her EBay auctions, crafting the online persona of Barbara Teal from my mother-in-law, Barbara Green.

It was quite fun. Gathering material from her dozens of auction descriptions, as well as the blog that she writes about her EBay experiences, it was simple to create an online persona for Martin (the main character of the novel) that was interesting, amusing, and genuine.

And paying minor homage to your mother-in-law in your first novel can’t hurt.