As a writer you`re going to get confronted by that question, maybe more times than you would like and it made me think. As authors we love the cathartic process of writing. You can go completely bonkers in a couple of lines or through a certain character. You exercise those demons that`s been haunting you, deal with those exes and family members. Those ‘mean girls’ and over all stresses of life. As a romance writer I have some really deep and uncomfortable self-discovery sessions when I navigate charted and uncharted territory.
But is it autobiographical? No. Not for me anyway. I don`t take moments of my life and write it into my stories. I always threaten my friends that I`m going to do that to them whenever they do something hilarious, but I never do. What I do however is take snippets of reality. Now don`t roll your eyes, that is different *smile* For instance if I want to describe a scene where the heroine sits in the window gazing out mournfully at a wintery afternoon. That`s something I`ve done. In fact, a lot of people have. You`ve seen the storm clouds gathering, watched as the sun gets snuffed out and the rain thundered down creating small rivers on the pavement (such a cliché in writing-but you get my point). I use that snippet to bring realism to my writing. It is the details in the fabric that makes the tapestry.
The same with emotions. As a writer you tap into that well of; hurt, pain, joy, contentment, confusion, etc. All the in-betweens. You`ve experienced some of them. You translate those emotions onto your characters describing them in an authentic manner.
But I think the thing that baffles most, because they ask this question to get clarity, is this: They mistake an author`s ‘voice’ with their experiences, personality and character. And yes those things are closely related and I think this is also one of the reason`s most authors struggle with finding their ‘voice’. If you don`t have a clue of who you are, you`ll always try to copy someone else. And yes this also happens in writing.
My ‘voice’ is an extension of who I am, but I`ll be lying if I said it is the complete package of Inge Ulrike Saunders, because it`s not. It couldn`t possibly be. It`s a facet of who I am, at a certain time, in a certain context. In this case, the writing world. But it`s a distinctive facet. For example, when I pick up a Barbara Cartland book I know exactly what I`m going to get. Not just in terms of story or setting, but in her style of writing. The same with Sophie Kinsella. The same with Jane Austin. The same with L.J. Smith. I do believe that once my books see the light of day *grin* the same could be said for me. Even though each story is different, in characters, setting, issues and themes, the author`s ‘voice’ stands out and is the thing that keeps you picking up their books.
But what about authors that say they use their life experiences in their books and that a certain character reflects them? Well than that`s true, for them. Not all authors do that. Sometimes a book can be figurative but not cathartic. For instance my book, Falling for Mr. Unexpected, deals with a young woman in her mid twenties, who unlike her counterparts, is not on the lookout for ‘Mr. Right’. There`s obviously an idea that I`m hammering on here in the book and that I basically in a ‘tongue and cheek’ way, commented on. None of the events in the book or characters are a true representation of anyone I know and yet when my first chapter was read by friends and family in 2012 on sytycw`s website, everyone asked me if the main character was based on myself *laugh* It was fun toying with them.
Authors do write issues and causes into their stories that they hold close to their hearts, but that in itself is not autobiographical. A good example of a literary work that`s autobiographical in nature, is D.H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. Names were changed as well as playing around with the setting in certain parts, but for the most part it was a depiction of D.H Lawrence’s relationship with his mother and the women in his life.
So in conclusion, not everything an author writes is a ‘tearing of the soul’, ‘bleeding on the paper’ work of art, but more an interpretation of their world. A commentary, sometimes, a viewpoint.