Suzanne Hartmann on writing personal experiences in novels

Debut author Suzanne Hartmann offers us a guest post today about how she constructed her thriller, PERIL, which features a cool homeschooling mom and some NASCAR settings. For a free Kindle giveaway, keep reading!

There’s a saying that goes, “Write what you know.”

I found myself coming back to this adage many times as I wrote PERIL: Fast Track Thriller #1 , my first novel. It’s easier to show something you’ve actually experienced than to make it up or do the research to recreate it.

Below is a list of items in PERIL that came from my own experiences. The actual text from PERIL is in quotes.

1) Joanne, my protagonist, experienced a severe accident years before this story takes place. Because I was also in a severe accident many years ago, I included in Joanne’s story some specifics from my own accident.

a) “Her screams had been so long and hard that her throat had become raw. By the time the paramedics arrived, sound no longer came out. “

(Before the ambulance arrived at the scene of my accident, I was in so much pain from my many injuries that I screamed and screamed until my throat was so raw that no more sound came out.)

b) “I found out later that Aunt Jean called my mom right after the hospital notified my parents about the accident. Aunt Jean said she’d sensed a great need to pray for her sister’s family right around the time I was in the ER.”

(This is exactly what happened on the night of my accident, except my aunt’s name is LaVerne.)

2) When I needed a minor character to suffer from a serious illness, I decided to give him the same illness my dad suffered through. That way I could add first-hand experience into the story to make it more realistic (and save me a lot of time researching).

a) “An unnatural stillness blanketed the room as Joanne took a seat next to Neil. Padded chairs lined walls hung with large pictures, and a selection of magazines littered several end tables. But the subtle differences thickened her throat. Everyone sat in pairs: the patients next to the loved ones who were suffering from—maybe dying from—their illness. Those who spoke did so in the hushed tones used at a funeral home.”

(This is the feeling I had when I accompanied my parents to any of dad’s doctor appointments.)

b) “It gave her the creeps to sit near people who had poison dripping into their veins, even if it was a type of poison created to harm the cancerous cells more than the noncancerous ones.”

(This is exactly the thought I had when I sat next to my dad during a couple of his chemo treatments.)

3) For four years, I volunteered with Midwest Raceway Ministries at Gateway International Speedway just outside of St. Louis for the NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series races. The following activities are things I saw crew members do at the track at one race or another.

a) “As they walked down pit road, Joanne pointed toward two crew members in bright yellow firesuits tossing a football back and forth while the rest of their crew lined up next to their car.”

b) “In the blue and yellow car behind it, a tall crew member had one leg in the car and one leg out as he helped push his team’s car forward.”

4) As I wrote PERIL, a few miscellaneous opportunities came up to include various occurrences from my own experience.

a) Because I have homeschooled my children since they were in kindergarten, I am familiar with that lifestyle and the typical behavior of homeschooled children, so I made Joanne, one of the main characters, a homeschool mom.

b) “Pain crowded her consciousness, but she pushed aside the black dots that swarmed at the edges of her vision.”

(I have passed out due to pain several times. Each time, black dots of varying sizes started at the edge of my vision. They grew and multiplied until I could see nothing, then I passed out. One time I was able to hold the process off briefly until I reached my room and could collapse on my bed.)

Until I started writing, I never really thought about whether authors included their own experiences in their writing. I just assumed that since it was a work of fiction, everything in it was fictitious. Now I know how much flavor and reality personal experience can add to a story and as I read, I wonder sometimes—especially when I read a particularly poignant part—if that could possibly be something the author experienced.

Thank you for hosting me here today, Phyllis, and participating in the blog tour for PERIL. To help celebrate the release of PERIL, my debut novel, I am giving away a KINDLE to one lucky winner, and I would like to invite your readers to enter the give-away.

KINDLE GIVE-AWAY

The contest will be open from the release date (Nov. 18) through the end of the blog tour (Dec. 16), and I will announce the winner on Sat. Dec. 17.

To enter, click here: WIN A KINDLE

AUTHOR BIO

Suzanne Hartmann is a homeschool mom of three and lives in the St. Louis area. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Composition & Linguistics from Western Illinois University. To relax, she enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and Bible study. She began writing fiction when her children were young, and four of her short stories were published in a Milliken Publishing reading workbook. PERIL: Fast Track Thriller Bk. #1 is her debut novel.

On the editorial side, Suzanne is a contributing editor with Port Yonder Press and operates the Write This Way Critique Service. Through her blog, Write This Way, she has become known as an author who can explain writing rules and techniques in easy-to-understand terms. Her popular Top 10 series of articles formed the basis for her e-book on the craft of writing, Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level

PERIL: A Fast Track Thriller: A top secret agent with enhanced strength, who must use her extraordinary abilities during several high-profile assignments, from the White House to NASCAR tracks, while escorting the first Muslim king to convert to Christianity. When unwanted publicity and the attention of a NASCAR champion threatens to expose her secrets, she becomes a terrorist target with danger surrounding her on all sides.

“Plenty of action and unexpected twists.”

Foreword by Jimmy Makar, GM of Joe Gibbs Racing

BOOK TRAILER

Where can people find your book on-line?

OakTara Publishing

Amazon

Christian Book Distributor

Fast Track Thrillers

Where can people find you on-line?

My Website – FastTrackThrillers

My Blog – Write This Way

Facebook – Suzanne Hartmann – Author

Twitter – @SuzInIL

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    Comments

    1. Thank you for hosting me today, Phyllis!