I’m often asked by readers if I base my stories or characters on real events or people. I do. I write where I know. All of my stories are set in Virginia. I’ve lived in the Commonwealth all my life, and I want to share it’s beauty and history.
My characters that are based on real people tend to be mash ups of several different people. My friends and coworkers often find things they’ve said in a book or story. I’m always taking notes. I never base villains or killers on real people. I don’t use real places if a horrible crime takes place there.
But, I’ve also had the opposite happen, and it’s very interesting and often surprising. I’ve written about characters and situations that have come true or that turned out to be real. And I didn’t know they were real. We just finished watching the three seasons of “Stranger Things,” and when I found out about these surprises, I felt like I was in the UpsideDown.
In my Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries, Chaz Smith’s lawyer is named Rick Dixon. One morning, I was driving down the road, and a local business owner came on the radio with an advertisement for his services. I did a doubletake when I heard the name.
I also had a reader contact me about one of my characters in “Washed up” in Virginia is for Mysteries. The character was named Roy Brown. She said she had to tell me that that was her husband’s name.
Also in “Washed up,” I loosely based the restaurant/bar on one that was at Chicks Beach at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach. When I used to hang out there in the 70s and 80s, it was a snack bar with a deck. Later it became a restaurant. In the story, the characters create a mystery to help save the financially strapped business from going under. The story was published in 2014, and I found out shortly after that that the real restaurant had closed because of bankruptcy.
In “Diggin’ up Dirt” in To Fetch a Thief, I wrote about a couple who moved into their new house and found all kinds of things that had been left in strange places. We recently moved, and we found some interesting things that had been left (most were DIY projects gone bad). Thankfully, we didn’t find what the characters in “Diggin’ up Dirt” found in their backyard. The little dog Darby is based in my Jack Russell Terrier, Disney.
I got an odd, woo-woo feeling when I found out about the real situations, but it’s fun to find out fiction isn’t that far from reality.