Last week marked the first birthday since my book Checked Impressions released to the world, so I thought it’d be fun to talk a little bit about some of the real life inspiration behind this book.
Back in 2010 I was a bit of a hockey fan. Okay, I’m still a hockey fan, but not like I was back then. I followed the Chicago Blackhawks, who were having a stellar few seasons, ultimately resulting in them winning the Stanley Cup that year. Now I’d dreamed about visiting Chicago (this Aussie dreamed about visiting anywhere in North America, actually) so when the opportunity arose to go see some east coast USA & Canada (with some bonus trips to places like Montreal, Quebec City, Muskoka, Toronto, Niagara Falls & Chicago) I was so excited!
First thing: planning where to go, what to do. This avid Anne of Green Gables fan had to somehow make Prince Edward Island and Muskoka work, because these were settings used by LM Montgomery in her books. But another place also called: the Art Institute of Chicago.
I like art. I’ve always been a fan of both watching and trying to create something of the images in my mind (and much like writing it doesn’t always measure up!). So when I dragged my husband to see this museum filled with art, including the largest collection of Monets outside France, it was heavenly.
We loved our visit there, along with other Chicago must-do’s, such as enjoying deep dish pizza, seeing Navy Pier (back then the stained glass museum was there – such artistry is fabulous!), and taking an architectural highlights cruise down the river. (I’ve got pics on my website here) In fact, many of these scenes made their way into my original version of the first book I ever wrote, Love on Ice, as I love incorporating real life places into my fiction. And thus they stayed, until I realised that 155,000 words was a tad too many, which saw my beloved book chopped and changed and basically become two books. Checked Impressions saw a new couple, but the original setting of Chicago, while Love on Ice shifted to Detroit. I wanted to make my heroine an art lover and base her in the Art Institute, so I could demonstrate some of my love for the art there.
So Checked Impressions has an Impressionist art-loving heroine (like moi) whose job as a public engagement officer means Allie has a super awkward encounter with Chicago’s home-grown hockey hero Jai, as she stumbles over her words (also me) and blurts out some cringeworthy things. (Yep, that’s me).
Including these moments of utter embarrassment – as well as the visits to various places my husband and I visited – help make the story feel real (please note: not everything in this book is autobiographical). But it is fun to write what I’ve known, and even more awesome when readers tell me they relate to a character. Like when Allie gets convicted over her first impressions of one of the hockey players’ girlfriends. I had a reader tell me they were convicted about the same, which was awesome because God has challenged me about this too. (That’s actually why I included this scene)
It’s one of the most awesome things about writing Christian fiction. We can start out with a vague idea of what to write, but God can breathe His life into mere words and shape our thoughts into His intentions and work His truth into fiction and touch hearts.
Most of my books stem from real life inspiration, and are based on places I’ve visited or are about situations I’ve either experienced or have happened to people I know or are about the God truths He’s teaching me. Real life inspiration makes a book more relatable, and I hope readers enjoy picking up those little moments of authenticity that help ground a book into feeling real.
So let’s chat:
I have an ebook copy of Checked impressions to give to one commentator. Pick any or all of the following questions for your chance to win! (ebook, worldwide, winner picked Saturday 4th 9am AEDT)
Do you ever stumble over your words? Got an embarrassing moment you think would make a great scene in a book? Are you an art fan? Have you been to Chicago? Do you enjoy books that ‘feel real’? What kinds of things help make a book feel real to you?
Grab your copy of Checked Impressions here (on sale for a limited time!).