During the cover reveal party for All the Pretty Bones, I got some really great questions. The first question was:
"Where did you get the idea?"
I explained that I had a stalker when I was fourteen. Since living through that experience, news articles about stalking cases grab me. I feel for the victims and get angry with our legal system. I realize that we can't proactively arrest people before they commit an offense, but there should be harsher penalties for engaging in intimidation, threats, and stalking. There are too many women and men who end up seriously injured or worse, and maybe - just maybe - this would happen less often if the punishment carried more weight. It wasn't a big reach for me to wonder what would happen if the wrong person was pushed too far and had nothing left to lose.
I also was asked how similar my experience was to what my main character faced. It was a really great question, and it made me very thankful that things ended as well as they did. The question also made me think back to when I would read books and wonder who in the author's life influenced their main characters. Fiction has a lot of influence from reality and I have heard a few writers say that they divulge more in fiction than their memoir - and they feel safe doing this because the context has changed so much the circumstances would not be recognizable. I can't speak for all authors, but the real world influences on my work are so altered that the end result is merely a vague impression of what I started with. Characters are composites of real people, fictional characters, ideals, and research - never a single person. The same can be said for scenes and plot.
Unfortunately, my stalker had a violent streak and was cruel to animals. He was very clear about what he wanted to do to me, left death threats in my friends' lockers, and isolated me from my peers. He was so menacing that no one wanted to risk being hurt, so I sat alone near the principal's office clutching my backpack and an apple, too nervous to eat. It is hard to put into words the chill that ran from the base of my spine to the tips of my fingers when I walked out of my house to see the man who had been following me from class to class. That moment will always stick with me. It was the moment he crossed the line from being someone frightening at school to the man who knew where I lived. The threat was no longer left behind when I went home.
Being stalked was awful, but it could have been a lot worse - and it was for my character, Olivia. I'm thankful that I was able to start moving on after a year of fighting. Olivia was stalked for 10. I went through the legal system. Olivia went rogue. I would also never claim to have experienced anything paranormal. The differences go on....
It feels really good to be able to say my experience was channeled into a book. I found the silver lining and something positive was created from something negative. The feelings and emotions revealed in the book are pretty personal, but the circumstances are difficult to compare.