Some of us are born with a tremendous amount of creativity, and some of us are not. You can see it when you observe children playing: some children came literally create their own world simply by using their imagination. I used to watch my little sister play with her kitchen play set, or talk to Elmo, her favorite stuffed toy (sorry for embarrassing you right now, Danielle!). It was the cutest thing! The kitchen appliances weren’t real, and Elmo couldn’t talk back to her (that I know of), but to her, when she was playing, every bit of it was real.
I was one of those kids who wrote books for herself. I made up characters, and had them go on adventures. Sometimes, my stuffed animals were the characters in my stories. Of course, these stories were very simple. Years later, when I became older, I came up with more complex characters and stories.
The more I read, and the more I learned about writing, the more time I spent writing. I started writing books because I had trouble finding stories I really wanted to read. I came across too many cliché stories: boys and their dogs, friends realizing they both want to be more than friends, etc. Same stories, just different character names. I eventually found myself wanting to read a story about a girl who is a badass and knows how to handle a gun, so I wrote one (Valentine). I wanted to read a story about an introverted emo girl who finds the career of her dreams, working for a punk band, so I wrote that too (Novocaine). I guess you do end up writing what you want to read.
But something strange happened. I never wanted to read about myself (hell, I don’t even enjoy talking about my personal life). I did find myself writing about myself, which is odd because there’s nothing very interesting or extraordinary about me. However, when it came to some of my characters, I needed a few mundane details about their lives, and I guess my life just came in handy.
Some of my characters and I have a few things in common. Valentine and I were both raised in a single-parent home, and we both know how to fire a gun. Amy Edwards, Dee Seybrook and I were born in New York, raised by single mothers, and did a ton of reading and writing in our youth (Amy and I both started school early). Many of my characters have absentee fathers (for me, ditto). Amy and I both play the guitar. Haverdy Oyama and I both have tomboy-ish ways. And then there’s Dylan Maycriss: the black female Goth chick. Yep. That’s me, too.
Parts of my life can be found inside the first Our Lady book. While I was born in New York, I grew up in Hampton, Virginia. Without experiencing a New York High School first hand, I had to rely on two things: my experience at my high school , Bethel, and my mother’s experiences at Benjamin Cardozo High, the school Amy, Dee, Carmen, Vanessa, Mike, David and Rob all went to. I’ve never seen the inside of Dozo, so most of what is described in the story, is actually from Bethel High in Virginia.
A major part of my life can be found in the book, Novocaine. This book is semi-autobiographical. Some of Erin’s experiences reflect my own. She spent a lot of time reading when she was in school, which is what I did. She lived with her mother in Hampton, Virginia, far away from extended family members, just like me. Sadly, she and her mother nearly lost everything when they moved to Georgia to be closer to Erin’s uncle, who claimed her had made a fantastic investment that was going to make all of them rich. I’d like to say that part was fictional, but it wasn’t.
Erin has experienced homelessness, depression, and a rebirth, just as I did. I’d thought about writing about my experiences with my extended family for a very long time, but I wasn’t sure of where to start (because there is A LOT TO TELL, AND ALMOST ALL OF IT IS NEGATIVE). Instead of going into every horrible detail, I took two events involving my family and combined them into one, and used that one in Novocaine.
Sometimes the truth, is very, very ugly.
My art, has imitated my life. If my extended family ever read my books, they may be upset. But hey: sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes the truth, is very, very ugly. That’s one of the amazing things about reading and writing. We find ourselves relating to certain stories, because we can see ourselves in those stories. Maybe the experiences reflect our own, or the characters remind us of ourselves. Art very often, imitates life. Now, life imitating art, that’s a different story….