On October 13 each year, my sister, Gayle, catches up to me. She walks beside me, equal in age for two weeks. It’s a time when we are reminded that we have always led parallel lives. But have our lives turned out the same? It’s a question I’m exploring by using our history as the basis for two fictional characters, sisters named Jennifer (Jenny) and Catherine (Caylie).
When I first began writing a novel I’m calling “Irish Twins,” it was hard to separate Jenny and Caylie from Gayle and Michele; however, somewhere around chapter seven or eight, I finally had a clear distinction in my head. I had taken so many liberties and had as much “untrue” stuff in there as “true,” that the book took a satisfactory turn from memoir to fiction. BTW: It’s an oxymoronic event when fictional characters become “real.”
Readers often suspect authors of writing autobiographical material and I make no excuses about pulling detail from my life and masquerading it as fiction. After all, I come from the school of “write what you know.” But after what started out as a comfortable stroll down memory lane, it soon felt like running the risk of offending the truth. I, for example, didn’t want my sister to come after me and say something like, “wait a minute! I never said or did that!”
It’s gonna happen. I’m sure of it. And my planned response to my sister is, “I know you didn’t do that. Caylie did it.” Let it be known that at this point, I don’t even know what either character is going to do move the plot forward. That’s part of what makes the process fun for me.
If I could write prophetic rather than reflective fiction, how successful would that make me? Perhaps I should give some thought to walking a parallel road with Caylie. In the meantime, I’d like to wish my dear sister, Gayle, the happiest of birthdays. And honey, my hope for you has always been that all your wishes come true.