How My Reality Becomes Fiction … Or Does it?

A Guest Blog Post By Kelly Lane

A friend living in the South read a portion of my manuscript for ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE before the book was published.

“Gosh, I never knew that being from New England was so important to you,” she said. “And, by the way,” she added with a wink, “You got most of the Southern stuff right!”

Of course there are elements of my life from which I’ve drawn inspiration for the story that takes place on a plantation in Southern Georgia. Most notably, like fictional runaway bride Eva Knox, I moved from the Northeast to the Southeast. And like Eva, for a time I made my living as a public relations consultant. Moreover I must admit, like Eva, I’m a klutz, crashing and falling – ad nauseam! However, I’m not using ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE to tell my story.

ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE is total fiction, I explained to my friend.  The characters, the plot – even the small-town setting of Abundance, Georgia – are all just made-up fun. I’m simply drawing on what I know to add a little depth and “color” to Eva’s story. And even though I’m a Yankee – and everyone’s “South” is unique, I do have a secret weapon when it comes to knowing the Southeastern United States.

Real Life Inspires Characters and Setting … to a Point

Similar to Eva, I’ve resided in metro Boston as well as several idyllic small towns like Abundance. I know what it’s like to experience a big city and a tiny town, as well as what its like to have both Northern and Southern sensibilities. And I’ve exploited my experiences. Having Eva run to – and then run from– New England ensures she’s a square-peg-in-a-round-hole back in her Southern hometown. This creates inherent tension between Eva and her Southern neighbors, and there’s a lot of fun with that as the story moves along.

Still, my reactions to the issues and conflicts Eva faces would be quite different. She questions her convictions more than I do, she’s sassier than I am, and she’s far braver – you wouldn’t catch me running through the woods alone at night! And no matter the circumstances, even though there was a broken engagement once in my life <cough cough> I can’t see myself leaving a church full of people and a man at the altar. Plus, Eva has two sisters. I don’t have a sister – I wish that I did! The kind of love and loyalty shared between Eva, Daphne and Pep, even when they disagree with one another, is enviable.

I’m a Northerner with Southern Sensibilities

Regarding my friend’s comment about getting the Southern stuff “right,” what she didn’t know is that my mother and her family were all Southerners – with ancestors hailing from pre-Revolutionary times. I grew-up enjoying my grandmother’s home-cooked, sweet, salty and fried Southern fare; seeing my grandfather come home late nights after frog gigging; and listening to family folks say “I reckon” before relating stories about growing up Southern. There were extended visits from relatives who shared family recipes, hometown stories, and wonderful Southern expressions and mannerisms.

Weirdly, long after I moved to my little corner of the world in Central Virginia, through happenstance I learned that 300 years ago my ancestors walked right over the very land where I live today. So perhaps – like Eva – I have come home again. It’s just taken me longer to get here!

Mixing Reality with Make-Believe Creates a ‘Real Story’

In a sense, my friend was correct – my reality is important to my book. However, it’s not significant in the way that I think she meant. I’m not journaling my life. My life is merely a jumping-off point – the noise in the background, so to speak – from which I create distinctive, made-up stories with unique characters, remarkable places, and – hopefully – entertaining storylines.

In the end, it’s how I manipulate my reality, twisting it together with my research and imaginary people, places, and plot that make ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE the unique real story that it’s become. I hope readers love reading about Eva Knox – along with her family, friends and foes – as much as I enjoy writing about them all!

Kelly Lane is an author living on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. In addition to her work as editor and “slush-pile reader” for a prominent literary agent, she has penned as a copywriter, journalist and worked as a business writer, editor and public relations consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Set on an olive plantation in Southern Georgia, ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE is the first book in Kelly Lane’s new Olive Grove Mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime. Each book includes original recipes inspired by dishes in the story. Visit Kelly Lane at kellylanewrites.com.