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’s newest book, released today, is The Night Before Father’s Day. And since Sunday is Mother’s Day, I added the cover art for The Night Before Mother’s Day which was published in 2010.
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.
For more information about Natasha and her books, visit her website. She blogs at Natasha’s News and can also be found on Facebook.
Medeia Sharif says
It was great reading about Natasha and how she uses her background and family in her writing.
Pat, thanks for hosting Natasha! I really loved this post:) And I love that picture of you and your dad and sis, Natasha.
Jessica L. Foster says
Great post. It is cool to reflect on your life and then create an awesome story from it. I usually create the story and then learn something about myself. Thanks for sharing.
Natasha Wing says
Yes, Pat, I’m here in Moab tonight, going to hike Arches National Park tomorrow. Never been here before and it’s beautiful country. I’m working on a new book which involves the National Park Service so this trip is serving as inspiration. Isn’t it great that writers can work while we play? Thank you for your comments everyone! I enjoy writing The Night Before series.
Stacy S. Jensen says
Great post. Thanks Patricia and Natasha!
Lynn Proctor says
i loved reading about her and her books are the cutest!
Patricia Stoltey says
Good morning, everyone. We may not hear from Natasha today. The last I heard, she was hiking or biking in Utah. Since she’s in an area that’s one of the most beautiful parts of this great country, I’m downright jealous.
As for parental inspiration, I used whole family inspiration for both of my mysteries, especially the second where I borrowed the names of my sister-in-law and three of my cousins for the elderly Florida Flippers. That’s partly why the book is as much silly as it is mysterious. 😀
Donna Volkenannt says
Great post and photo.
Hi Pat and Natasha,
Part of the wisdom of getting older is understanding where we’ve been…and why. Great post! And I love the picture 🙂
Margot Kinberg says
Pat – Thanks for hosting Natasha.
Natasha – Thanks for sharing your own experiences and the way they’ve influenced your writing. I think it would be well-nigh impossible for a writer not to be affected by her or his background. So rather than fight it, as you might say, it makes a lot of sense to delve into it and use it. I wish you much success.