Recently I’ve been involved with a new business, assisting with many different aspects. One of the most enjoyable of these is working with a group of teenagers. For some of these young people, this is their first job. A few of them are very eager to learn. They also seem to enjoy hearing stories about some of the experiences I’ve had throughout my career.
During these conversations, I have to remind myself that many of these people have never seen some of the movies and musicians that I’m referring to. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I’ve been able to show them video clips. Some of their reactions are priceless, particularly when they realize the performer is not some twenty-year-old musician, but someone who has had a long, successful career.
“Wow, he’s still got it!” a young colleague said, after viewing a clip.
“Did you notice the crowd’s reaction? There were people of several generations who were singing along with him,” I said.
“Yeah, that was amazing.”
That made me think about authors. Some very successful authors such as Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, Henry Miller and JRR Tolkein didn’t publish until after their 40th birthday. Maybe having some life experiences is part of it.
While I don’t agree with the statement ‘write what you know’, being able to call on those bits and pieces of my own life has definitely impacted my writing. And you just never know what little tidbit may appear in a story. There are several that work their way into “Your Turn to Die”.
For example, here’s an excerpt from “Devious”. In this scene, Jamie is trying to persuade her step-father, Bert, who is a captain with the state police, to let her accompany a trooper during patrol for research on a new character.
“I recall when you were fifteen and went through a phase where you were going to be a vegetarian. That lasted until I was grilling steaks.” He grinned at the memory and gave his head a slow shake. “Level with me, Taffy Ass. Why are you here?”
“Taffy ass? I haven’t heard that in years. I keep hoping you’d forgotten that by now.”
“Not on your life. That was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”
Maybe to him, but to me, it was one of my most embarrassing moments ever. It happened when I was sixteen. There was a dance at school and I had gone with a group of kids. It wasn’t an official date. But Nicky Valenti had been very attentive that night. He bought me a Coke and a slice of pizza. We shared a few slow dances. Nicky was a senior. All the girls thought he was charming, with a sly smile and soulful brown eyes. I was junior. He had borrowed the keys to a friend’s car.
On the way out to the parking lot to ‘look at the stars’, he’d bought me a few pieces of taffy. I was young. I was naïve. I slid them into the back pocket of my jeans. After an hour of passionate kissing in the backseat of the car, we returned to the dance. The taffy had melted through my pocket, staining my jeans, my underwear and my bottom. My face was as red as my hair when I tried to explain it away to Vera. Bert didn’t believe a word of the story I came up with that night, and had tagged me taffy ass. He only used it in private and always with impeccable timing.
I couldn’t con him. He was far too sharp to accept anything but the truth.
Here's the video that inspired this article, from Sir Tom Jones.