So one of the most frequent questions I get when I call into book clubs is "How much of this book is taken from your own life?" I got the same question for The Department as well, which is sort of funny because the protagonists are wildly different. But I guess there's a tendency (and I do this too) to look at the author's photo on the dust jacket and somehow insert him/her into the story. It's really interesting to be on the other side of the coin (jacket?) now though because this question always amuses me a little (not in a bad way): like people don't understand that what we do is write fiction, as in, we actually do really make this stuff up! :)
I know that we've discussed just how much of yourself you should put into your novels in the past, and by that I mean, I think if your plots/characters are too similar to you, you can often get stuck when it comes time to be creative, but in thinking about it (as I do when I'm asked this question about how much the plot line echoes my life), I guess there is a very fine line to walk. It's funny, actually, because Jillian, my protag in TOML, is actually nothing like me. I really didn't relate to her circumstances or her problems, and yet, I was able to give her her own voice, her own world totally outside of mine. I think what was important here was that on some level, I emotionally connected with her situation. I mean, like most women, of course I've had an occasional "what if," and that shared spark of a moment was enough for me to bring her to life. That readers are convinced that she is me (or vice versa) should, I guess, be a compliment, no?
The same thing happened with The Department. I actually get emails from people who think that Natalie's story was mine, and that the book was actually a memoir. Again, there were elements of Natalie's life that I related to - for example, her quest to be in touch with her exes, as I'm happy to say that I've kept in touch and am friends with many of mine and wish them all the happiness in the world - but obviously, I'm fortunate enough to never have had cancer, nor been in many of the situations that Natalie found herself in. But yes, on some emotional level, I clicked with her.
I dunno - it's just a funny thing. I guess that's really what I'm musing about - not that any of you might care! But do you guys do this? Put the author in the plot? (And as I said, I do it myself, but I've gotten better at it now that I realize that, indeed, this is a work of imagination!)