June 5, 2017

Writing What You Know

By Celeste Fletcher McHale

For me, the easiest part about writing a book is simply being familiar with the subject. In my case, it is a simple southern life in a small town full of characters everywhere I turn.

There’s an old saying that goes like this “It doesn’t matter if I know what I’m doing, someone else always does.” That should be painted on the water tower in a small town. I can go to the local breakfast shop/bait shop/grocery store in the morning and come back with five new ideas for a novel. Somebody’s daughter ran off with the married preacher, somebody went off to college and met and married a major league pitcher, somebody’s child went into the military….and didn’t come back. (And by the way, all those things are true of my small town.)

There is a novel in every one of those stories and many more. I’m not sure about a big city, I’ve never lived in one, but when things like this happen in a place with a population of 750, and I’m being generous, any event affects us all. It’s a buzz that lasts for weeks, months and sometimes even years. This is what makes what I write easier. There is no research, no digging up bones, no “I wonder how someone would react” because I see everything I need to see…I just have to write it down.

I find people are eager to tell their stories, they just have a hard time trying to get someone to listen. When you sit with someone and really let them talk, you can sometimes come away with a new perspective, a new gratitude, a new found respect and a new sense of pride for a family. For instance, I know a girl that lives pretty close to here who has been married five times. Feeling most superior to her because my own marriage has lasted thirty- seven years so far (Applause here, please. We got married when I was 17) I sort of looked down on her. I didn’t talk about her or make fun of her, but to be honest, I felt just a LITTLE bit better than she was. You understand what I mean. But one night, at a ballgame of all places, I found myself seated beside her and we began to talk. Before that night was over, I had made a new friend, I understood why her life had been so rocky and I was ashamed of myself for my superiority complex. 

In fact….I’m in the middle of writing my next book about how the rest of us got up every morning and lived and for many mornings, she got up and survived. If I have any advice to give to anyone considering a career in writing, it would be to write what you know. And you know much more than you think.
Celeste Fletcher McHale is a writer from Central Louisiana. She attended LSU & Northwestern State University where she majored in History. She is the author of the award winning debut The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. Her next novel, The Sweet Smell of Magnolias & Memories is scheduled for release on May 23. Celeste lives on her family farm and enjoys raising a variety of animals and fruits and vegetables. She is an avid sports fan and has passed that love for sports to her grandchildren. Celeste Fletcher McHale | Small Towns…Big Spirits!Twitter @fletchermchale 


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