The only good thing about Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) is that the memories of grisly moments never fade. They are with me always. That means I have no problem remembering exactly what happened, when, where, and how. The factual basis for my fictional story is firmly grounded.
My work after 1975 is still classified, so I can’t talk about it. Suffice it to say, it had its exciting moments that added to my trove of adventures that I can draw on for fiction.
Meanwhile, I volunteered to help those in need. During the 1980s, I took care of men dying of AIDS. I worked with seven patients. They were all gay, and they all died. Then I spent seven years as a volunteer in a hospice, working with dying people. Those experiences, too, are emblazoned on my memory.
So I have a rich set of experiences to draw on for my fiction. It’s all fact. It all happened.
But the characters in my books and stories are all created by my imagination. They are often based on an amalgam of traits I saw in real people, but they are not depictions of people I knew. Instead, they are produced by my unconscious. I’ve learned to put myself in a meditation-like state, quiet my mind, and give up control. Then the characters come to me, as if in a dream, fully formed. In the beginning they don’t always reveal themselves completely. I have to wait for them to decide to let me know them.
I put my imaginary characters into the real situations that spring from my memory and imagine what they would do. I watch them act and react, then write down what happens.
I usually don’t know the ending of a story or book until I write it. And a scene that I am writing often takes turns I’m not expecting. The characters sometimes do things that surprise me. It is as though a muse were dictating to me a story that only she knows.