I get the question a lot from folks wanting to know if what I write is "true." Well that question can be taken a lot of ways. Are the characters real people? Did the events really happen? And the answer is, some of it is real and some of it is made up and I just put it all in the pot, give it a big stir and see what it all becomes. No one is more surprised than me with the outcome.
I loved this quote when I read it in a blog post because it best captured what IS real in my fiction:
"I have a book coming out this Spring - and although it's fiction - the seedling of the story was born in truth. I am not my main character nor do I have her problems - but it's still honest in the sense that emotional truths come through in a happy scene or sad scene because an author can remember feeling or seeing something happy or sad. Or something sickening or startling or funny or poignant." Amy Sue Nathan, author of the forthcoming novel, The Glass Wives and blogger at Women's Fiction Writers
What is real? Always the emotions. A novelist has to capture real feelings on a page or you will put the book down and walk away. So while I may not have gone through the exact things my characters go through, I have always gone through the feelings they're having. It's my job to feel, and feel deeply, and remember what it feels like to feel so that I can help the reader remember too.