This week I reviewed A Year to Remember by Shelly Bell (you can check out my review here if you missed it). Shelly was kind enough to stop by Books Etc. with a guest post as part of the CLP Blog Tour. This is the question I had for her:
Your novel has some autobiographical parts to it. Was that easy or hard for you to write? Did you want to include as many references to your own life as possible or did you decide to just use the basics and let the character's own story come through?
Thank you to Shelly for writing this post for my blog! I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.
I was on my way to see a documentary about primates at the Henry Ford Museum when the story for A Year to Remember downloaded in my head. That’s literally what it was like. By the time we got to the theater, I told my family to go on ahead while I jotted down an outline in the lobby. An hour later, I had a skeleton synopsis, including character names, events, and the ending. It wasn’t something I had considered writing. But once I started, I couldn’t stop and I temporarily shelved the paranormal romance I had been working on.
They say an author’s first book is the most autobiographical. Mine is no exception. The process of writing it went rather quickly; I think it took less than three months to write because the voice of Sara was so loud and insistent. There are pieces of me in the main character, Sara, as well as her best friend, Missy. Sara and I are both compulsive overeaters, and when I was twenty-nine, I was “in the food.” Writing the book helped me process some of the events that transpired in my twenties and see it from a different perspective. For example, my younger brother did marry before me. I was in my late twenties and when I gave my toast, I had a slip of the tongue and admitted I was jealous!
At the core of my book is not just my story, but the story of women I know. My friend Miriam and I went on several disastrous blind dates. Most were too horrific to even make the book. Sara’s dates are a combination of dates that Miriam and I suffered through in our late twenties. Like Sara, I spent a year throwing everything I had into finding a husband. I spent a thousand dollars on a dating service, tried speed dating, and went on several dates with men I met through JDate. Most of time, there wasn’t a second date. Adam and Caleb are completely made-up characters. But the issues that Sara faces in regards to religion and marriage were issues that Miriam and I both faced. Without giving the book away, the real outcome of those issues differed.
After I gave up my search, I met my husband through a different Jewish online dating site. He emailed me on a Friday, we met on Sunday, got engaged four months later, and married six months after that. I knew the moment I read his name on the email that I’d marry him.
The hard part of writing a book is having people read it and assuming everything is autobiographical. It’s fiction! I had to convince my mom that I never had a crush on any of my brother’s friends. And no matter how many times I tell her Sara is not me, she maintains she knows too much about my sex life. I would never put such personal information down on paper for the world to read. What happens in my bedroom stays in my bedroom.
Yes, Sara and I are a lot alike. I used the book to try and educate people on compulsive overeating in an entertaining way. I hope that at the minimum, the reader gets a couple of chuckles from it!