Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Past Jobs and the People I Met While Doing Them

I've been around a long time and have had many jobs--none that I hated, but all that have had a tidbit or a person who I've been able to use in a book.

Of course my first paid jobs were babysitting, which I began at the age of 10. Frankly, I wasn't much good at it, but people continued to leave their children with me for several hours at night. Like many young girls, when I was in my teens I had to fight off dads' groping hands while being driven home. (Never took a second job with their kids.) Haven't put one in a book yet, but I may.

I've worked at a boring job filing for the telephone company, there I met some interesting people. One of my coworkers lived with a man she wasn't married to, my first encounter with such. (Remember, this was a long time ago.) She lived in a downtown L.A. apartment house complete with a Murphy Bed. Another co-worker was a young Mexican woman who lived in East L.A. I went to her wedding, and hubby and I had dinner with the newlyweds in their apartment in the barrio. I see reminders of that visit and neighborhood in many movies. I went to my first baseball game with the gals I worked with, ladies' night so it was free, and we spotted a couple of movie stars. I also went to a nudist camp with another of my co-workers and her family. That was an experience I've yet to write about--but ought to.

I worked as a telephone operator off and on over the years (between babies) and met a lot of interesting people whose parts and personalities I've used in various books.

When I became a teacher in a pre-school for developmentally disabled children, I not only loved the work but I loved the kids. During my ten years at this school, I also went to college (raised teens, was a Camp Fire Leader and had husband in the Seabees who finally retired). I met more intriguing people whose various parts and personalities burrowed into my memory for later use.

From that school, I taught in three different day cares in low-income neighborhoods. I not only met people who ended up in my books, but situations that were perfect fodder for plots. In my first mystery, The Astral Gift, the heroine works in a day care and I gleaned a lot of what happened to her in her childhood and on the job from many different people and gossip told me by my fellow teachers.

Hubby and I moved to where we live now and took over a licensed facility (home) for 6 developmentally disabled women. The perfect job for me. I loved it and I had time to write when the ladies who lived with us went off to work. I also was exposed to a not so wonderful state-run system with far too many leaders who have no real conception of what it takes to provide a good home for folks, and far too many regulations. A bit of this seeped into a psychological horror I wrote called Wishing Makes It So about a very bad little girl who nearly ruins a family. (I also quizzed my couple of grandkids who were young at the time about mean things kids had done to them which also appeared in the book.)

It didn't take me long to realize our new home was in a small town with its very own and unique personality. Also close by was an Indian reservation. New fodder for my books--and of course this was where Deputy Tempe Crabtree was born. Going to Pow Wows, driving the scary, narrow, winding road to the reservation, being involved in the controversy over the building of a casino on the rez, visiting the casino in its various stages of growth, watching the good and the bad that came from the casino, hearing and learning about the many Native American legends all things I borrowed from for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

After 22 years, hubby and I retired from the residential care business after helping the last remaining women in our home find new places to live, taking their desires into consideration (not our responsibility but we knew we'd do a better job than those in charge).

Now instead of going off to work, we've gone to lots of mystery conferences and book fairs in many interesting places--still meeting the most intriguing people.

Over the years I've met enough people and been enough places that I have far more material for books than I have time to write them--but that doesn't mean I've quit paying attention and taking notes.

What about you, have you gotten ideas from any of your jobs or people that you meet in various situations?

Marilyn

3 comments:

  1. My WIP started from something I witnessed first hand.
    There are notebooks in my office full of people places and ideas that are inspired by jobs and conversations.
    Life is wonderful fiction.

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  2. I also observe those around me - sometimes they even say, "I hope you're not going to put me in a book!" but that's only if they're a frenemy!! LOL. I've been known to "borrow" a physical trait or a great name. My heroine's freckles and hazel eyes in TAME THE WILD WIND are my daughter's, and the wicked trophy girlfriend in TAKING A CHANCE ON FOREVER got her name from Amber, my son's best friend's mom (with her okay!). I think as authors we can't help but snip and swipe whatever traits, names, situations, etc., that we encounter.

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  3. Yep, if we keep our eyes and ears open, we can borrow all sorts of things from the people around us.

    Marilyn

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