Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Many Hats

Elizabeth Spann Craig posted a question on the blog last week:

You've got a very interesting background...have you used any of your past work experience in your books? Are you planning to?

For those of you who don’t know, I have had, uh, quite a few jobs throughout my career. The following is from my Amazon Author Page bio:

Before Alan stepped off the corporate merry-go-round, he had an eclectic (some might say disjointed) career. As an engineer, he worked on nuclear submarines, supervised assembly workers in factories, facilitated technology transfer from the Star Wars program, and learned to stack washing machines three high in a warehouse with a forklift. He even started his own recycling and waste reduction newsletter business.

In addition, I did piping stress analyses for nuclear power plants, I supervised a group of product planning managers for a TV/radio ratings company, and I was the marketing manager for a hardware/software systems developer. (And I worked at the National Bureau of Standards, and I bought corrugated containers for a major appliance company, and I consulted to a national media company, and I…)

You get the picture.

So, have I ever used any of my past work experiences in my books? I’d have to say no. At least not consciously. I mean, who wants to read about a boring cubicle dweller, who spends all day crunching numbers and writing reports?

Of course, on a subconscious level, I’m sure I’ve used a ton of stuff from my experiences. The way a co-worker acts. The way a factory looks. The psychological effects of a particularly stressful negotiation. Those descriptive details, amassed from all my experiences, have definitely found their way into my books.

And who better to murder than all those evil ex-bosses?

As for the future, who knows? If there’s a market for a story about a rogue nuclear submarine that employs Star Wars technology as it’s used in an evil plot to manipulate the TV ratings, then I’m your guy.

(Here’s a question for you, Elizabeth: How much of your BBQ series is taken from your personal experience? If the answer is “a lot” then I’m inviting myself down for dinner sometime!)



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh I know what you mean...too much writing about reality isn't interesting, is it? But I love the way you incorporated your life experiences in your books. :) And...come on down for BBQ anytime!

Jan Morrison said...

I, too, have a chequered past. I haven't used any of my jobs in a novel yet because I like to explore more and more and more. Maybe that is why I write - because I can't live a hundred different lives like I'd wish to. How about you? Are we just life experience vagabonds?
Jan Morrison

Anonymous said...

Alan - I've done a lot of different things, too. Some of them I'm even willing to admit to doing ;-). And like you, I tap those experiences, but I wouldn't say I re-create them. I think it's easier to write things that are really interesting if one's had a number of different experiences.