Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blurring the Lines Between Fiction and Reality

By Carol Lynne (Guest Blogger)

Yep, that’s me. It’s something I suffer from on a daily basis. I’ve given a lot of thought to this post and how I wanted to tackle it. In the end, I decided I wanted to address both sides. How do I affect my stories and how do my stories affect me. I’ll take the second part of that question first.

How do my stories affect me?

I’ll use Cattle Valley for my example on this one. As some of you may or may not know, I created a fictional town in Wyoming named Cattle Valley. It’s a place where men and women are allowed to life their lives without retribution for their sexual preferences or lifestyles. Although it sounds pretty Utopian, it’s not always that way. There are still struggles and obstacles that couples must overcome in order to find their happily ever after.

In my opinion, I give the characters the setting. How they make things work after that is their own job. And therein lies part of my problem. You see, I see the town people as real. I’ve written twenty books about them so they feel as real to me as anyone. I have the town so thoroughly mapped out in my head and on paper that I can give you street directions to their houses.

I know the website I had created went a long way in making Cattle Valley seem like a real place, but it’s also the readers input that has helped. Occasionally, I get emails from people asking questions about the town’s reaction to a certain vote that’s on the ballot. The emails are always addressed to the mayor and written in such a way that it almost breaks my heart to write back and inform them the town isn’t real. Right after President Obama was elected, Cattle Valley Mayor Quade Madison received quite a few emails asking what he and the others in Cattle Valley thought of the results and the future of GLBT causes under the incoming President.

And I’m getting just as bad. Last month, my cousin, who happens to be an incredibly funny and handsome gay man, told me he was taking a trip to Sheridan, Wyoming. Well, heck, Sheridan is only a thirty minute drive from Cattle Valley. I actually told Cory he should make the trip down. He looked at me and laughed. Honestly, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized I might need some professional help.

Readers often ask me how long I’ll continue to write the Cattle Valley stories, and I can never give them a definite answer. Sure, I’d like to explore other towns and characters, but how could I possibly leave all the men I’ve come to know and love? It may sound completely crazy, but I think, I will actually mourn once I’ve written the last chapter in the Cattle Valley series.

This leads me into the second half of my post. How do I affect my stories? This is the down and dirty section where you really get a peek into me as a person and author. Since my first story, I have always tried to give characters with troubled or painful pasts their shot at love and happily ever after.

I’m a strong believer in writing to my emotions. If I don’t feel the words, why write them? I can tell you that every time a character in one of my books suffers, so do I. I cry with them. I cry for them, but mostly, I cry for myself because the emotions are my own. They’re based on memories good and bad. Some so terribly scarring I rarely speak of them even to my family. I’m almost forty-five years old, and I’ve been carrying some of the pain around with me for half of my life. I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve finally found a way to express them.

When I wrote the book Scarred, I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t cry while writing it. Yes, the story was sad, but for me, it was so much more than that. It was a diary of everything I’ve carried with me since I was in high school. Once I was finally able to get all my thoughts and self-loathing out in print, I was able to step back and look at myself with an objective eye.

Near the end of the book, I had dinner with my mother and sisters and confessed to them what I’d known but refused to admit for some time. I am a manic depressive. I was shocked to see all three heads nod in an understanding way. They knew! All this time and they knew. I was floored.

The only observation my younger sister made was that she didn’t see the manic side. My mom was quick to jump in with my writing obsession and how there are times when I block everyone and everything else out to focus on my stories. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of that, but she’s right.

This may be incredibly pitiful on my part, but writing makes me feel normal. It gives me hope, maybe not for me, but for the characters running around in my head that I give voice to. Not only am I able to give them acceptance but true love, despite their imperfections.

Wow, yeah, so that’s me. In case you’re wondering, I’ve been working hard at trying to curb my urge to work fifteen hour days. I’ve been taking the time to enjoy the life that I’ve worked so hard to achieve, and I actually am starting to feel better about myself. I still have a long way to go, but luckily, I still have a lot of stories to write and emotions to work through.

Carol Lynne


  1. Hi Carol,

    Welcome to the Grip. And thank you for such an eloquent and personal post.

    You make a wonderful point about blurring the lines between fiction and reality. I think, for competent fiction writers, we need to live in the worlds we create. Or, at the minimum, have a holiday home there that we can regularly visit. It adds to the realism and makes the narrative all the more enjoyable.

    Visitors to London still try to visit 221b Baker Street, where Sherlock Holmes 'lived.' They will then go to Kings Cross station to catch a glimpse of Harry Potter's platform 9 3/4.

    Just to make the blend between reality and fiction more confusing, there is a Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street, and Kings Cross station have erected a sign to show the location of Harry Potter's platform.

    When reality starts changing to incorporate fiction, are we writers really so out of touch with the worlds we inhabit?

    Best wishes,


  2. Greetings, Carol,

    Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to be our guest here at the Grip.

    I think that one reason our fictional worlds become so real is that we do use them to work out our personal issues - as you describe. When you invest that much emotion in a story, it can't help but continue to affect you.

    I hope you're having a super time at Authors After Dark. I'm with you in spirit!


  3. Carol,

    As cathartic as writing your books are for you, speaking as a reader, I believe they are incredibly helpful in dealing with emotions and thoughts. Reading Scarred still touches me in ways that are scary, and yet liberating. So many of your books help me and I am certain many others deal with real life and all of the sometimes painful and hopefully more often wonderful feelings that we have.

    Thank you for continuing to go there.

  4. "Blurring the lines between fiction and reality"

    Hmmm. How to explain two people born over 2000 miles apart
    1) would share a dream (IDENTICAL!) frequently over a period of 25 years or more
    2) would eventually meet and marry
    3) Continue to experience the Dream for a number of years before accidentally discovering that they BOTH still had the recurring dream from time to time.


    4) Discover through research that the PLACE (a ruined chapel on an island) not only is a REAL PLACE but was once the SEAT of His ancestors, over 400 years previously when they were Kings in Ireland??

    Truth stranger than fiction? You bet! And OF COURSE I had to capture the story, which was BEGGING to be written down ...
    hope to have it published later this year!

  5. The very fact that people actually believe Cattle Valley exists says an awful lot for the power of your writing, Carol.I totally relate to loving the characters we create - it's hard to let them go sometimes - that's why we write series, and will 'til the readers say Enough!
    You're not a manic depressive Carol, you're a sweet, caring friend and mother - you're just obsessed with your writing and that's fine - keep 'em coming!

  6. Carol - I think part of the gift we're given as writers is to live our truths. Too many people are so afraid to do that. Be proud that you want a deeper connection to life. I am going through a rough divorce right now, something I never thought would happen to me.
    So in my novel Night Surfing, I have Sosie Bend, my main character tell this imaginary (or not!) surfer she meets: 'I have l Love Amnesia which means I have been stripped of all memory of love. So teach me, Jagger, teach me everything.'

    Thanks for the post, Carol. It made my day...Mary Kennedy Eastham

  7. All I can say is how much I love this series. I've not got the last couple yet but I will very soon. The ones that I do have I love and I've reread them again and again and I just got them earlier this year. I hope you write a lot more books about Cattle Valley because I love them and yes I feel like it's a place that I would love to go visit and meet the people. Since I read your first book I've felt like I know Nate, Rio and Ryan personally. Good luck and get doing such a great job.

  8. Hi Carol,

    Great topic today. Congratulations on your continued success with Cattle Valley.

    Destiny Blaine


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