"Fiction is the truth inside the lie."
There is a heart of truth inside every piece of fiction I write. A living, breathing truth that beats and provides the literary life support to the story. It starts with an idea, an image, a moment of mental clarity and it evolves and mutates into... something else. An old silk scarf that is pulled through my hands before it's tossed in the donation bag becomes the method by which a character is bound to a chair. An angry, bitter conversation becomes a confrontation between characters, neither of whom resemble the real people who argued. And so it goes.
That little nugget of truth thuds along-- cocooned in lies and spackled with other bits of truth-- and it becomes something that doesn't resemble anything from my life. Most of the time. There are things I have written and had published that hit close to home, but I think I'm the only one who flinches as I read something that is too true, too exposed-- because I am the only person I am willing to sacrifice on the altar of my craft. And even then, my exposed truths are rarely enough to incriminate me. I hope.
I have written things that were autobiographical, yes. How could I not? Of course, the temptation here is to joke about my sex life because, after all, much of what I write is erotic. But the most true parts of what I write are rarely sexual (I said rarely-- not never). They are the conversations that I have, the memories that linger, the experiences that most profoundly affect me. They are there, in my writing. But, but... they are often rendered in soft focus, much like a photograph taken with a smudge on the lens. You can make out the image, but perhaps not all of the people in the picture are clear-- or their expressions are blurred.
I don't use real names in my fiction, of course. Real people are there, though I doubt most of them would even recognize themselves. What I consider noteworthy-- the traits or situations that end up in my fiction-- are often insignificant to other people. Writers are cultural anthropologists and behavioral psychologists without the fancy degrees-- human behavior intrigues us and we use our people watching (and listening) habit to enrich our fiction. We borrow and steal from others, like crows stealing the shiny bits of your soul.
When it comes to writing fiction, I don't have a hard and fast rule about writing about real experiences or real people. I take it on a case by case basis. I have intentions to write a memoir some day and I know I will have to expose more of myself (and others) than I have in my fiction. There will be no "Fiction/Erotica" label on the spine to deflect readers from thinking certain things about me and that leaves others vulnerable as well. How to approach it? Do I ask permission first or write my story and ask forgiveness later? I don't know. I will have to figure it out as I go.