How much is your book based on your own life?

I sometimes get asked if certain characters are a reflection of people around me, or if this or that scene is a direct reflection of my life due to some apparent similarities.

While I do get inspiration from my life, people around me, everyday situations, entertainment (movies, etc.), I don’t transpose “real” things directly into my books. I mostly get inspired by things you cannot really grasp, like a feeling, a look on someone’s face, a dynamic between two people. These are often also not things I’ve lived myself, but rather something I’ve observed.

If you look at the feeling of love as an example, there are different variations of it and different degrees of intensity, so you can explore it in different forms in a fictional setting. Some feelings are also nowadays very neglected such as loyalty, that can be interesting to investigate. If you’re finding it hard to get inspired by your own life, I’ve found that travelling and exploring other cultures can greatly inspire you. Obviously this is not really possible at the moment, but you can try things outside of your normal realm such as watch a movie that is absolutely not your genre, try out different cuisines, learn about a subject you’ve never thought of before.

You can also take something that happened in a real life, and flip it completely around into something creatively more interesting. For example you break up with your partner because he/she cheated. That’s (unfortunately) quite common in real life. But what if you take this and transpose it into a fictional setting; your two characters break up, but instead of being able to go their separate ways, they’re suddenly forced to work together because of… well whatever, you can make it up. And then you observe the character dynamics. Will they be able to put the cheating aside to work together? Are they going to talk about it or are they just going to pretend it didn’t happen and move on? Throw in an old boyfriend or girlfriend in some capacity or another, and see how that changes the dynamic.

Most of my inspiration is not directly linked to my personal life. I like to escape into my fantasy worlds and I don’t need too many reminders of my own life in there. So if there are similarities to my real life, these are purely coincidental. 🙂

My set-up when I write

Most of the times, I write at home in my office. I have various playlists I put on depending on my mood. Then I close the door to the rest of the house and write.

Music is important for me to get myself in the “trance” to write. Certain albums or musicians always put me in that mood, but I always try to switch it up and mix in new music so I have a larger range of music that can trigger that “trance”. There are also good live music channels on youtube if I just want some background music. The reason I mostly write while listening to music is that it helps me disconnect from my everyday life. I need to get in the mindset of my characters so I need to feel what they’re feeling. If I don’t try to live and breathe my characters, I can’t relate to them.

I also limit distractions which is why I close the door to my office. Nowadays the attention span of everyone has diminished and I also catch myself opening facebook or quickly checking my messages. On my laptop I close all windows and programs, and only leave open the word document to write in, a translation website (because yes, sometimes I think of a word in German and I can’t remember the exact translation in English) and a website for synonyms. I have my phone with me but I turn off roaming/mobile data so I can’t be distracted by incoming texts.

I use head phones to listen to music and invested in an extension cord, to allow me to get up and walk around my office to think. You could obviously just use loudspeakers but I find head phones filter out more of the background noise and thus limit the distractions (the neighbor smacking the door closed, a truck backing into your road…). And the reason I try to not interrupt the music is because sometimes it takes me a long time to get into that “trance” to write and I don’t want to lose it and then have to work to get back into it. And any disruption can pull me out of my “trance”.

By limiting the distractions and having the mindset that I’m writing for the next few hours, it helps me focus and I train my brain to get into the “trance” quicker.

How do you write and how do you get into the writing spirit? Feel free to comment and share your experience.