I am pleased to welcome back children’s author Natasha Wing, creator of the “Night Before” series, to talk about ways authors can use their family members, especially their parents, to inspire story and character ideas.
Natasha, it’s good to have you back.
Parental Inspiration by Natasha Wing
People are always curious as to whether an author’s real life friends and family are portrayed in his or her books. I can say that I haven’t used my mother in any of my books, but I’ve used part of her – her personality – and blended her with other people I know to create a character mom in a dystopian novel that never got published (Maybe that’s a big whew! My mom’s still alive.).
But my dad I have used in a picture book I wrote that is being shopped around called, The Child of an Immigrant. My dad was born in the Ukraine and immigrated here when he was a young boy. His mother was thankful to be in America so much so that she didn’t think anything bad happened here, and she wanted her children to blend in as much as possible so they could be American. Unfortunately, when my Dad had kids, he didn’t pass on his culture or language to us.
As an author, I am always trying to “find” myself and understand what makes me, me, which is what makes stories told through me unique. When I was driving in my car as a passenger with my husband, it struck me that a comment a friend made, “You don’t dress Russian,” popped into my conscious. She was right. I was part Ukrainian/Siberian and you wouldn’t know it at all by looking at me. That got me thinking about all the kids whose parents hid their ethnicity in the name of blending in to act American. I felt like a shadow child, a person who has a hidden side that is barely seen. So I wrote a book about the shadow children.
That’s what I love about being an author. I can not only explore non-fiction topics, but I can go inside and explore my cultural and emotional landscapes. With each book I write I understand myself more and more. And that’s cheaper than paying a therapist!
Think about what it is about yourself that you’re curious about. Maybe you want to fix an annoying trait or habit. Or learn more about your own ethnic background. Maybe there’s a character in a future book that could help you explore yourself.
Natasha, thanks for joining us today.