It’s been a month since my novel, Fishbowls and Birdcages, was published. So far, I have sold a whopping 30 copies, which far exceeds what I thought would sell. From those who have read it, I am getting the same question over and over:
“How much of Fran’s story is autobiographical?”
In lieu of answering each person’s question, I’ve decided to blog about it, right here, right now. I hope this will satisfy the curiosity in those who are wondering, and maybe might even sell a few more copies of the book.
Fran’s story is fiction. There are stories – but not all of them – in the book about churches, parsonages, church members, and Fran’s life that border on fact. The churches and parsonages are fictional, although I pulled out bits and pieces of real places that we served and that our friends served to help create the churches assigned to Chad and Fran. Parsonage green is, or was, very real. Christmas open houses actually happened every year. Poundings were a tradition in rural Virginia churches. There really was a memorial garden, but Fran’s garden story is much more interesting than mine was. Soiled mattresses were in a friend’s parsonage – not mine – but very real, indeed. The fishing boat, “Visitation”, was a joke that made the rounds among preachers at one place where we lived. My husband actually came home from a men’s prayer meeting to inform me that he was going into the ministry. My reaction was much the same as Fran’s.
Chad, Fran’s husband, is more fiction than fact. My husband, David, had a few mild aspects to his personality that I blew up ‘way out of proportion to help make Chad the character I needed for Fran’s story. David is still alive, and has been happily married to his second wife for over 20 years. After our divorce and his re-marriage, he was transferred to a church that offered a housing allowance instead of a parsonage, so they were able to purchase their own home, where they continue to live. David does not possess any of the deviant behavior patterns or psychological flaws associated with Chad. Chad is actually based more on two ministers and one totally unrelated gay friend that I encountered over the course of my life. David was an excellent and effective minister, and I believe he was one of the few ministers I’ve known in my life that I believed had a true calling – very different from Chad! He is a good man and a great dad.
As far as Fran’s feelings about religion and the church, she asks a lot of the same questions that I asked. I, also, asked God why he didn’t let me in on his plans for David, and why I never felt like I was called to be a preacher’s wife. Like Fran, I am an introvert, and it was terribly difficult for me to find my place in that lifestyle. The feelings of invisibility were very real. Wishing for a girl friend that I could confide in was real. The loneliness was real. The longing to have a place that I could call my own was real. But, the reasons for the end of Fran’s marriage were not the reasons for mine, and her life after her divorce was not like mine at all.
I could go on further about the differences between fact and fiction, but I hope that this will answer some questions, give a little insight on the story that I wrote, and ease some minds about what really happened during that period of my life. Maybe, just maybe, it will make another person or two curious enough to buy my book!
Don’t forget – it’s fiction!