If you look up the phrase “write what you know” through your favored search engine, you’ll get a plethora of answers. Yes. No. Don’t ever. Always. Take your pick. It’s sage advice if it works for you. That said, I offer no answer one way or the other, but I can offer you my own experiences so you can, perhaps, decide for yourself.
I’ve been writing since my childhood and publishing for thirteen years, a long time for the former and a while for the latter. I’m going to use numbers and bullets to make my experiences understandable and, hopefully, relatable.
1) The Sisters Series (four titles between 2005 and 2013): This is far-future, alien-world Sci-Fi (though some have dubbed it Sci-Fantasy or even Fantasy)
- The gist: In a far-future world, an alien all-female society struggles to live and ally with the severe patriarchal society they developed from
- Was this my known? Um, yeah, actually, but I’m obviously not talking about the Sci-Fi aspect. Looking back… I’m a spousal abuse survivor and began writing this series during that marriage, on the sly because my now ex would have destroyed the work. Why? Because it gave me joy, because it was my escape. (Note: I’m long past that era of my existence. The effects will never fully go away, but I now live a happy life despite and in direct spite of what happened. The best revenge is to live happily.)
2) The Surrogate Series (2017 – present with a novella set for a late 2018 or early 2019 release, and a third novel set for a 2019 release) This is far future, alien-world Sci-Fi too.
- The gist: A woman struggles to merge her biological needs with the societal expectations of the world she is thrust into. Bisexuality is the norm in her species. She’s defiant of labels. She wants a family.
- Was/Is this my known? In some ways, yes. I stride numerous lines in my life. I’m the queer parent of three grown children, and I hate labels in general. They set limits and bring expected behaviors with them.
3) The Appalachian Elementals Series (Cleaning House is available now, Keeping House will be available in 2019 and after that…? This series could go on for a very long time.) This series is current-era paranormal-contemporary fantasy.
- (The gist thus far) A well-educated, financially-strapped genderqueer person (she/her) returns to the Appalachian Mountains of her birth and raising only to discover her past and future waiting for her.
- Was/Is this my known? Oh, hell yeah. I’m from Appalachia. I’m rather genderqueer. I’ve lived and worked elsewhere, but now I’m back home— older, wiser, and with an appreciative perspective concerning what I left behind and regained. More to the point, this series is set where I actually live. It’s familiar roads, businesses, and geography. It’s the paths I walk and home with all its imperfections.
So am I writing my known? Yep, always, whether I realized it at the time or not. I believe every writer is, in some form or fashion. It might be snippets of a family member in a character or your own hopes and dreams slipped into an alien culture’s norms. So what’s your known? Are you writing it? Are you writing your past in disguise, your now, or your wishes for the future? Whatever it is, you’re probably in there somewhere.
Read other posts in Jeanne’s Author How-To series.