Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Guest Blogger Lori Handeland

Lori Handeland is a good friend to the Playground--she's a lot of fun, a font of information, and she let me hold her RITA last year**. Oh, and she writes great books, too! We're tickled to have her back on the Playground!


Truth or Fiction?

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is: “Do you write about your life in your books?” This is usually accompanied by a wink and a nudge, which is just too disturbing for words.

But some are truly curious. They can’t understand how anyone could “make all that up.” It’s always interesting to me that people would rather believe that I actually know a few werewolves than that I could construct such a disturbing set of circumstances out of my boring, Midwestern, sports mom life.

However, when I look back on the forty odd novels, novellas and short stories, I’ve written, I can find quite a few instances where a few truths crept into the fiction.

The majority of my novels take place where I’ve lived or visited. Many of the characters impressions of those places are my own.

Sometimes a character is based on someone I met in my travels. For instance, when I decided to set the second trilogy of my Nightcreature Novels in New Orleans, my husband and I took a three day tour. I’d been there twice before, but I needed more specific knowledge.

The first day we were there, we ended up in an Irish bar off of Bourbon Street. The place had a terrific juke box that played Patsy Cline. The bartender was a gorgeous red head from Boston whose name was Diana.

The bar appears in Crescent Moon as Kelly’s, where Patsy Cline sings “Crazy” while the heroine, a red head named Diana, asks pertinent questions of the bartender and the patrons.

Several other incidents on that trip to New Orleans, and the one I took after Katrina, made their way into Crescent Moon, Midnight Moon, Rising Moon (check out the jazz clubs on Frenchmen; they might seem familiar) and the novella Voodoo Moon.

As for my Harlequin Superromances, there are parts of my life there, too. For instance, the dogs in Doctor, Doctor are named Jake and Elwood after the Blues Brothers. So are mine. The gun shy hound dog, Clint, in A Sheriff in Tennessee gets his behavior from my pathetic excuse for a hunting dog.

The little boy in Leave it to Max is very similar to a little boy who used to live at my house (he grew into a young man when I wasn’t looking). A lot of his best lines ended up coming out of Max’s mouth. This little guy always opened all the doors and cabinets in every room he was in. You never knew what might be in there. He was accident prone big time.

The day I went to the Fed Ex box to mail the manuscript (about a little boy with a broken arm) I returned home to a phone call from the school informing me that my version of Max had one too. That was kind of creepy. My husband begged me to “never put him in a book.”

My most recent Harlequin Superromance— a novella in the collection Mothers of the Year--is in the stores now. I got the idea for my contribution “Mommy for Rent” last year when we were taking my oldest son to visit colleges. One school was located in a small Wisconsin town--so small in fact that the entire town turns out for the college’s sports events. The main street is apple pie and hot dog America. And since America’s past time is baseball . . . Well I ended up with a baseball coach hero, a little girl who isn’t quite sure how to be a girl and a woman who’s wanted to be a mother all of her life.

Do you like books with a touch of reality or do you prefer complete and utter fantasy? If you write, do you put little tidbits of your life into your books? And as a reader how much reality is too much?

Lori will be around today to answer your questions. One lucky soul will get an autographed copy of Mothers of the Year. You can visit her website for information about all of her novels: http://www.lorihandeland.com.

**Not only did Lori let me hold her RITA, she even posed with it (And Maven Linda Winstead Jones) in a special "Guest Foot" appearance in our Yearbook.


Ann M. said...

Depends on the book. When I'm reading a paranormal.. I know it is all fiction. I haven't seen any vampires around my neighborhood.

I don't mind some truth in the books. I've enjoyed books that make me think about an issue.

Minna said...

As Ann said, it depends on the book. I like books with a touch of reality and books with complete and utter fantasy.

Minna said...

Ever had the temptation to tell people who think you might actually know some werewolwes that you really do know a few and a couple of vampires and aliens, too?

Anonymous said...

I have definitely had that temptation, Minna. Even succumbed to it a few times. I'm always amazed that Stephen King can write cat zombies, Tami Hoag can kill people off right and left etc but romance writers can't make things up.

You make a good point about reality. It does depend on the book. What works in one may not work in another.

For myself, I do not enjoy total fantasy. Drives me nuts to read books that use made up words for things. But that's just me. At least I know there's one genre I'll never try to write. Though all the others are open season.

Barbara Vey said...

I love the reality mixed with fantasy. The possibility that everything just maybe "could be real" makes the book that much more enjoyable for me.

Lori, I can remember, years ago, when I sent you an email after reading my first werewolf book of yours and thanking you for setting it in Wisconsin. I loved thinking that werewolves lived here. :g:

Anonymous said...

I like reality. I do like an occasional fantasy like Deb Macomber's Angel Series or Judi McCoy's series with a visitor from another planet as well as Karen Kelley's Nerak series. But that is about it.

Pat L.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Barbara!!!
I went by that Panera where we sat and talked for--what was it? 3 hours?--the other day. Made me smile.

I truly think that if there are werewolves, they'd be very at home in Wisconsin. Sometimes if I go outside our cabin in the north woods late at night (not that I do very often! scary!) I can feel them there. Or maybe it's a bear. Eeek.

Ann--I've only read a few books with issues. I usually avoid them just because I want to get away when I read. But I can remember some that were terrific.
A Rose for Maggie for instance.

I love Debbie M's angel books too. But I can easily see angels as reality.


Problem Child said...

At least Wisconsin werewolves are ready for winter...Alabama werewolves would drop dead from the heat!

Welcome Lori! Glad you're here!

Smarty Pants said...

Morning, Lori! Thanks for popping in today. I like enough reality mixed in with my fantasy that I might, just for a second, think it could all be real. It's like they say, the best lies have a great deal of truths in them.

Personally, I don't think zombie cats are far from truth. Sometimes mine stare at me and I'm certain they're evil.

Do you find the fantasy tries to creep in when you switch from a Nightcreature book to a Super? It seems to me like it would be difficult to put aside the worldbuilding, entirely.

Maven LJ said...

Hi Lori,

Aargh. I tried to post and it was eaten by blogger. No fair. I'll try again (and probably both will eventually show up.) Anyway, I like both reality and fantasy, but my reality needs some fantasy for me to love it, and my fantasy has to have some reality. I want a very real character and problem in a fantasy world or a touch of magic in a real world.


Playground Monitor said...

Hi Lori, and welcome to the Playground. I suppose I like a little of both. I think adding bits of truth here and there helps make stories more relatable.

As for Alabama werewolves... they wouldn't look so scary when they had to shave down to the skin in summer because of our heat and humidity. And when you shave an animal like that, they suddenly go from ferocious creature to whimpering little thing with its tail between its legs, afraid to look you in the eye. Nope, don't think werewolves would work here. *g*


Anonymous said...

Very true, Problem Child. The heat gets them every time. In fact, that was one dose of reality I used a lot in my New Orleans trilogy. There are no wolves in LA or Haiti. Too hot. so it freaked everyone out that they'd been seen running around.

I haven't had too much of a problem switching between the two worlds, Smarty. Although I did try to put a ghost horse into a Super and then had to rewrite the book and take it out. So maybe that cured me of the problem!

I think LJ hit the nail on the head. The best fantasy has a dose of reality and a little bit of magic can make reality much, much easier to live with.

Anonymous said...

Definitely, PM. The more real you can make the characters, the more their situation--regardless of how fantastic it is--feels real to the readers.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Lori! I definitely put some of my life into my books in one way or another. Right now, I'm writing a book set in Madrid. I spent nearly a week there a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. I also like to write about military guys -- I married one of those, which helps. :)

Instigator said...

Welcome to the Playground, Lori!

I think I agree with everyone else, I like a little of both mixed to the right proportions.

And the thought of Alabama werewolves in summer is just funny. Now, make them a werecat and I can see it. There's a cougar running around in the area by my house right now.


Anonymous said...

Madrid sounds fabulous, Lynn. I'd definitely want to put that in a book. And having a military man on hand. Lucky you!

Werecats sound like fun, Instigator. I had one in my Haiti book, Midnight Moon. Love those too.

They keep saying there's a cougar in central Wisconsin. I don't want to meet it! Big cats are scarier to me than wolves.

I just wrote a lion shifter into my second urban fantasy, Doomsday Can Wait. He was fun.


Kathy said...

Hi Lori! The playground is a great place to be today! :-) I remember cheering you on, being so happy for your Rita win, drinks afterwards and taking that picture of your lovely feet. Good times!

I agree with what Maven LJ said, there has to be some dose of reality in a fantasy in order for readers to relate and vice versa. Take for example the Jersey Devil. Have you heard of it? That would make a great story. Supposed spaun of the devil runs amuck in New Jersey killing cattle, pets, stealing, and rumaging through vegetable gardens. When in fact, rumor has it that an abnormal child was hidden from townsfolk and when seen was thought strange, almost devil-like. Its a good legend.

Anonymous said...

Great memories, Kathy. That was a fantastic night. I didn't get to bed until 4 am. Ouch!

I love old legends. And it's always so interesting to hear what the truth is or might be. And just as fun to never figure it out. To think that maybe, that time, there was truth to the fantasy.

"They say" there's a black panther that lives in the swamp near our cabin in northern WI. I have a hard time believing this but many people insist they've seen it.

It could be an exotic animal someone dumped there when it got too big for their apartment. Or some kind of hybrid lynx perhaps. Or maybe a dog that slinks like a cat.

Or maybe it is a black panther. Something ELSE I do not want to meet in the dark!

CrystalGB said...

I do like books with a touch of reality. I find I can connect more with the story if there is some touchs of reality.

tetewa said...

I enjoy reading both, but my favorite would have to be fantasy. I like to be taken away to places that I know I could never go to.

catslady said...

I too like both - either separately or in one story. I got to see New Orleans but that was over 35 years ago but I do remember thinking it was like another world.

Anonymous said...

One of the many things I love about books is being taken away to other places. I've always loved reading exotic settings. Really loved writing my book set in Haiti.

If you get a chance to go back to New Orleans, catslady, jump at it. It is like another world. A sultry, beautiful, musical world. Love it there.


Smarty Pants said...

I wish I'd gotten to go before Katrina. Now I'm afraid that it won't be the way I pictured it. :(

Angel said...

Hey, Lori! Late jumping in today, because of work, work, and more work.

I have to agree with Maven LJ's answer. I'm not a big "fantasy" fan, but if I read it, I need those touches of reality. And don't even get me started on learning new words and weird creatures. Had a critique partner once... but that's a complicated story. :)

On the other hand, I don't like too much reality. I don't enjoy reading biographies, or even these new historicals that are based on actual people.

Looks like I'm a reality/fantasy mix all the way. I love all kinds of romance, but paranormal is really calling to me at the moment. :)


Anonymous said...

Luckily for us all, Smarty Pants, Katrina didn't touch the French Quarter. That would have broken my heart. Most of the places you see in photos were spared. It's the outlying areas--suburbs and the lower rent districts that got wiped out. I'm not sure about the Garden District, that might have gotten hit a bit, too.

Hey, Angel. I'm with you on the words, but I do like weird creatures. Just not too weird.


Cheryl said...

I have to agree that it all depends on the book.

Example is The Deadlist Strain by Jan Coffey which is fiction but the plot of the book was something that I could imagine actually happening, which I think it made the book even more amazing to read.