Every once in a while, something I’ve written (or am in the process of writing) strikes too close to home. That’s the case right now as I (try to) finish the proposal for the sequel to BEFORE THE STORM. Those of you who read my blog as I worked on BEFORE THE STORM know it was about a fire at a teen lock-in. One of the injured boys is a central character in the sequel, so I’ve been immersed in his story. His arms were badly burned and in the sequel, he’s dealing with the social, psychological, physical and emotional ramifications of that injury.
Last weekend, a member of my very extensive extended family suffered similar burns, although–thank God–not quite as serious. Although I’m not close to this teenaged boy myself, I’m very close to people who love him and I ache for him and his family. The result is that he is much on my mind, and when I buckle down to work on the proposal, I feel the emptiness of committing to fiction what he’s going through in reality.
This has happened to me in other ways with regard to my writing. The most ironic and downright weird occurrence happened right after I completed writing KEEPER OF THE LIGHT in 1991. If you’re familiar with the story, you know that a woman, Olivia, thought she had a happy marriage only to have her husband quite suddenly fall for another woman. I’d just received the galleys for KEEPER when I learned that my wonderful-till-then husband of twenty years was in love with someone else. Friends said I must have known about the situation on some level, and it came out in my writing, but I knew no such thing. It was a spooky case of life imitating art. (I am happy to add that, although little can compare to the painful end of a marriage, life does go on and in my case became much, much better!).
So. . . I managed to get through the proposal today, but I’m going to sit on it another few days. I want to be able to read it with a fresh eye to be sure what’s happening in reality didn’t color what I need to have happen in the story. Meanwhile, my thoughts are with all real-life children who are the victims of fire. 

12 Comments

  1. Julie on September 20, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Yep, sometimes when you write stories about serious subjects, life can sometimes get a little too close to the stories. It ALMOST makes you want to write comedy instead, doesn’t it? 🙂
    But, then think of how your readers might one day read a book you’ve written and say, “AHA, this is a lot like what happened to me (or someone else close),” and it may give them comfort, or possible solutions, or motivation to fix a relationship, or just a feeling of “I’m not alone.” Even if it’s “just” fiction.
    Praying your relative has a speedy recovery to the fullest extent possible.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on September 20, 2007 at 2:50 am

    Julie, I often hear from readers who related strongly to something that happened in one of my stories and feel helped or touched in some way by the experience. That makes it all worthwhile.
    Believe me, if I could write comedy I would! My sense of humor is just fine, but I can’t write funny to save my life. 🙁

  3. Margo on September 20, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Diane, I’m so sorry about your little boy relative and feel for you and your family. I remember all too well what that’s like when I think back as a child and my sister was burned badly on her leg. I held her in my arms and would have given anything to take that pain from her. When real life copies art (your writing) it must be an extremely odd feeling. I can’t imagine how you must have felt after writing KEEPER and the shock of your own husband’s confession! Many prayers to you and your family and the teenage boy who was burned.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on September 20, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Thanks Margo. He is doing fairly well, still in the hospital and then on to rehab. It could have been much worse.
    Yes, the parallels in KEEPER were weird, to say the least. Continuing the irony, I then met and fell in love with (and later married) a man with a fourteen-year-old daughter, just as Olivia did with Alec.
    I’m going to be careful what I write from now on!

  5. Margo on September 20, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Wow Diane…some things are just unexplainable but what a strange coincidence!

  6. Krysia on September 22, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    I received severe 3rd degree burns on my face and 2nd degree burns on my neck and chest at work when I was in high school. I know all to well what it’s like. They gave me a 99.9% chance of scaring. I was that .1% that didn’t, most people don’t believe me when I tell them.
    I move next Saturday I am scared to leave everyone behind. I start my new job on the 1st. Gonna be crazy. So if you don’t hear from me for awhile don’t be afraid, I don’t know when I’ll have internet again but I’ll try and pop in now and again from my phone.

  7. Rob Lopresti on September 23, 2007 at 11:53 am

    There is a biography of Stephen Crane that argues that he spent his life doing – sometimes deliberately, and sometimes not – what you describe. For example, he became a war correspondent AFTER writing his brilliant description of war, The Red Badge of Courage. And, much weirder, he was involved in a shipwreck after writing “The Open Boat.”

  8. Diane Chamberlain on September 23, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Krysia, I think you’re very brave to make this cross country move, but I have a feeling it’ll be great for you! A new job you’ll love and new friends waiting to be discovered. And of course, we’re always here. . .
    Rob, I do know that I’ve occasionally written about things I want to experience as a way to give myself that little extra push to do it (flying in a hot air balloon, for example). But there are SO MANY things I’ve written about that I don’t want to come true. The thought makes me cringe.

  9. Ann on September 23, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Diane, have you flown in a hot air balloon?
    The occurrences that you experienced after writing about them are weird! Hope the teenager that was burned is doing better.

  10. Margo on September 24, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Krysia, lots of best wishes for your new job and move! Diane is right, we are always here if you want to talk. Take Care.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on September 24, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Ann, oh yes, I have quite the hot air balloon story. I blogged about it in my old blog when it happened, but maybe I’ll dig up some pictures to share later.
    The teen is steadily improving–thanks for your kind thoughts.

  12. Ann on September 24, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    I would love to hear the hot air balloon story and see the pictures. That must have been before I knew about your blog [or before I got a computer].

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