Is Fiction a “Do Over” of Real Life?

Since 2002, I’ve been writing fiction (well, trying to write fiction), and over the past six and a half years, I’ve cobbled together a fairly extensive cast of fictional characters, all inhabiting a world that has numerous similarities to my own – but better.

Surprise, surprise.

In my first book, titled Owe Nothing, my main protagonist (there are a few of ’em) is named Jack Owen. Jack is a slang or familiar form of John, or so I have been told throughout my life. (Given that I was apparently named for my grandmother’s brother, John Edward, who was my Uncle “Jack”, I take it as gospel.) So, Jack is a twenty-ish version of me. Kind of. Or, the me I almost with I could have been when we briefly lived in motels.

Jack’s Dad is named Jim, after my Dad. He’s about 55-ish, and his main issue is that generally, he questions how he got to this stage in his life with apparently so little to show for it, and with such a weak and tenuous relationship with his son (so he thinks). I’m 43 – not so far behind Jim’s age that I couldn’t imagine his predicament. Both my Jim and his son Jack are in a kind of life path rut, but while Jack is near the beginning of his journey, his Dad is closer to the other end.

Jack has an older sister named Kelly. I drew a lot of inspiration for Kelly from my sister Kim: her love of animals, her tenacity, and her ability to defend others to her own determent. A second character also represents qualities of my sister: Regina Coffey, who suffers through an abusive relationship, and struggles to assert herself while raising her two sons with very little income. Regina is a survivor, but not a prosperer in life.

The world of “Owe Nothing” is a 2001-2002 version of East Vancouver, with a few curious throwbacks or hold-overs from the ’70s left intact. The main incongruity is that the two large, neighbouring motels in which much of the story takes place exist at all. The Mountain View Motel (where Jack’s family lives) and the Peacock Court Motel (where Regina Coffey and her sons live) were real places, both bulldozed sometime in the mid-1980s, I believe. The motel culture of Kingsway in East Vancouver was dying even when I lived in it briefly, as a kid in the mid-1970s. It was grimy and harsh in places, but also lively and friendly – like a motor-hotel version of a low rent, big city tenement project.

More to come…

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A Metaphor for the Creative Writing Process…? (Part 1)


My first novel, titled Owe Nothing, was published in April 2009. At the time of this writing, that’s just a couple of months ago, which makes me, in many ways, a new novelist. However, that first project took years to complete: from midnight scribblings on the edge of my bed, to numerous Grande-Americano-fuelled sessions on my laptop in Starbucks, to the seemingly-endless rounds of edits with my publisher. All the same, that’s probably just the first of many rites of passage – all part of the game…

As a relatively new novelist, I admit to being perhaps just a bit over-analytical or self-involved where my writing is concerned.

I’ve probably collected many more questions than answers.
So, here they are:

Am I really writing more for myself, or more for my (hypothetical) reader?

What is the quantitative evidence of “success”? (e.g. Sales?)

What is the qualitative proof of “success”? (Against what measure do you gauge good quality?)

How discerning and specific do I think my audience is? Is a book lover kind of like an art lover?

Are these questions ridiculous?

In subsequent posts here, I’ll try to address each of those questions in turn – especially that last one… 🙂