by Cate Holahan
A man died on my dining room table. His blood seeped into the honed concrete slab becoming an indelible stain on the surface. To the untrained eye, the mark might appear red wine, sloshed on the table by some drunken dinner guest. But the spot is darker. Deeper. I see it.
Anyone that has ever read The Widower’s Wife and then attends a dinner party at my house sees it too. In truth, there isn’t any stain on the table. (When I host Thanksgiving, I put plastic underneath the tablecloth like the OCD aunt that covers all the furniture). The mark is all in our minds. It got there because I staged a murder scene in that book in my actual house, and a character does die on the table. My real dining room table.
Scenes from this book are set in my house.
Folks say “write what you know.” Since I work from home, sometimes that entails snatching details from where I live and incorporating them into my work. My protagonist’s apartment in Lies She Told is a copy of the first place my husband and I lived as a married couple in New York City, location altered to protect subsequent renters. The apartment that another character inhabits is a copy of my husband, then boyfriend’s, place in Battery Park. (If I ever need to stage a scene in a house that is so small the kitchen is pretty much in the bathroom, I’ll pick my old place in the West Village.)
My scene stealing process can also involve lifting entire houses from Zillow and employing them as settings. There is one person selling a house in Montauk to whom I really should send flowers when One Little Secret comes out in July. What to write on that card?
Even when my imagined setting is no where like where I am writing–as in my WIP novel My Father’s Daughter–little details from my home have a way of worming into my work. I can’t help it. The sound of the blender in a scene currently in that book is based on my Vitamix grinding potatoes. I’d prepared potato leek soup for dinner and later wrote a scene about a mom cooking for her daughter. The soup and my blender both ended up in the mix.
The question I want to ask The MissDemeanors and other writers out there is where do you work, and are there any details from your home that have ended up in your stories? Is it a good thing when they do? Or an embarrassment? Share!