In just a few weeks, my second novel, Unsafe Haven, hits the E-book “shelf.” I’m at once thrilled and nervous. This book is very special to me because it contains a lot of what I hold dear. Location, family anecdotes. Memories.

We authors do that sometimes: put our lives in our books. Maybe something in our past was such a wonderful remembrance, we’d like nothing better than to share it with others. Writing it down is almost like reliving it. And the feeling we get is so warm and profound.

Unsafe Haven is set in Alaska. Not where my family and I used to live—Fairbanks—but in Southwest Alaska, a remote and wild region. Mountain ranges, rolling tundra, a multitude of rivers, lakes and streams. Tiny villages scattered here and there, some of them without electricity or indoor plumbing. Dangerous wildlife, long, bitter cold winters and brief but lovely summers. It’s a challenge and a reward, living there.

As I wrote, I decided to infuse my story with some of my most cherished memories of the years I spent in Alaska with my family:

My shock, the first time I went to an Alaskan café and saw a ‘reindeer burger’ on the menu. Moose that came up to the house and ate the lobelia right out of my hanging flower baskets. A co-worker who tried to hike in the winter without warm gloves, got stuck on the side of a low mountain and lost the tip of every finger to frostbite. After he recovered he gained the nickname of “Bear.”

Dancing in the kitchen with my daughter, then twelve or thirteen, and both of us laughing like loons. That image alone still has the power to bring tears to my eyes as it’s a particularly sweet memory, and one I was happy to include in my story.

In each of my books I make sure to mention something about West Virginia through location or other means. This is a loving nod to my husband, Don, who was raised in small town Cameron, West Virginia. In my first novel, Promises to Keep, one of my main characters was brought up on a mountain ridge in that beautiful state. In Unsafe Haven, it’s the mention of a favorite saying of folks in Don’s home town: “I’ll be go to hell.” ☺

Finally, a childhood memory from Don: A dog he named “Boofer” because his mother said the pup’s name was “Buford” and he and his little sisters all misheard what she said. The name stuck and that story has always tickled me, so finding a way to incorporate it into the book has kept me grinning.

Providing your readers bits and pieces of your life adds another dimension to your story and gives a dose of realism that helps ground the plot you’ve created. It doesn’t matter if your story is about shape-shifting time travelers stranded on the planet Reticula. You can still adapt some memory from your past, incorporate into your story by assigning it to one of your characters, and make it work. It’s fun for you and it’s fun for those who enjoy your book.

I’ve started my third novel, a historical. This is a new venue for me and my very first attempt at a historical, so we’ll see how it goes. I have a couple of excellent critique partners who’ll keep me straight, so I don’t see how I could possibly fail. I’ll of course find a place to add some more personal memories as well as a way to mention West Virginia in my plot.

If I simply can’t make it work, I suppose I can always send my characters to Reticula.


Char’s newest novel, Unsafe Haven, has a projected release date of Aug. 29 and will be available at Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

See the book trailer, here:  http://youtu.be/ZJieck3U17Y




About charchaffin2011

Writer and Senior Acquiring Editor
This entry was posted in Char's Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to PUTTING YOUR LIFE IN A BOOK, By Char Chaffin

  1. Katy Lee says:

    No matter what I write, a little bit of me gets put in the story. And when I read other authors’ works, I like to “find” them in their stories. So I will be sure to look for you in UNSAFE HAVEN!

  2. lulu says:

    No matter what we write, a little me is always there. It’s what we know. Hope your new book meets with great success.

  3. Thanks so much, Lulu. I hope so, too! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. revrosevan says:

    I love hearing about all your special memories and moments that have made their way into UNSAFE HAVEN, Char. It’s when we infuse a story with love that it’s most successful, and I know yours will be because of this. xox

  5. jannashay says:

    Hi Char – what a great post. Hearing about all the memories and pieces of your life that you included in Unsafe Haven gives your story so much character. I can’t wait to read it.

  6. Cheryl Yeko says:

    You are right on that, Char. I have the first names of my grandsons (brothers) in my book that’s coming out in October. And even though they are too young to read the book (steamy … lol) they are pretty excited about their names being in print. In my book, I have the twins as brothers, and my older grandson as their cousin.

    Fun stuff!


  7. Callie Hutton says:

    Loved it, Char! I find that I incorporate my daughter’s funny/sarcastic sayings in my books. Also, I started naming my heroines after my nieces. I have two books right now with their names. The only reason I could write the sex scenes was because I didn’t use their husbands’ names as the heros.

  8. Larynn Ford says:

    The heroine in the second book I wrote was given pot belly pigs as part of her engagement present from her fiance. At the time, I had three grandchildren so the piglets were named the grandchildren’s nick names. Buddy, Pooh and Monkey won’t mean anything to the average reader (if I ever get that far) but a few people will get my little joke.

    I have doubted myself so many times as a writer but the more I read of other writers experiences and feelings and I can say, “hey, me too”, I feel I’m in the right place. I am a writer.

    Thanks, Char. I enjoyed reading about your journey.

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