Writing About Your Friends
It’s wild to me that my novel, A Lot of People Live in This House, will be in the world soon and that people will read it. A scarier part of that sentence is that some who live or have lived in the intentional community that inspired the novel will read it. Part of me wants them to read it. Part of me wants to move to another state, change my name, and never speak to them again.
It’s a hard thing to share your work with anyone. It’s even harder when the people around you directly influence that work. I want them to like it; of course, I do. At the end of the day, the characters in the book are not them. Nearly every character started with an archetype that evolved into something wholly itself. For instance, one of my housemates was very pregnant at the beginning of COVID, but she didn’t give birth on her bathroom floor (though, if I’m honest, getting pulled into a real-life birthing scene was one of my greatest irrational fears all nine of those months).
Life inspires art, it really does, and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing a very diverse and interesting life during my time at The Bond House. When life gives you a rich collection of oil paintings, what else are you supposed to do but try to paint something?
So, as you read A Lot of People Live in This House (which I hope you do for selfish reasons), know that each character was inspired by someone I’ve known, but that the character itself is unique. When I talk to people about writing fiction, I akin the process to painting. A painter may sit down and capture your likeness, but at the end of the day, the painting isn’t a carbon copy. There’s an artistic intent and interpretation. If I wanted a copy, I would have taken a photo. The same with fictionalizing stories. I wrote a scene about a Chopped-themed dinner we had at the House many years ago now, but the scene wasn’t an exact replica. We didn’t have Zatarin’s in any of our baskets. But such an absurd and delightful thing makes for good storytelling. In fact, that scene is more patchwork than anything. I took a story my husband told me about his mother making a Beef Wellington. While the original version was funny, I think my version is better.
When I tell someone about my living situation, a listener is intrigued or horrified. I hear “I could never do that!” all the time. I get it; we’ve all had bad roommates. Hell, we’ve all been the bad roommate at one time or another. That roommate who hoards food and turns their fridge shelf into the science experiment of the century. That roommate who hooks up with the loudest people in a tri-state area. That roommate who never does the dishes. That roommate who never takes out the trash. On and on.
Living intentionally in a community is different than just having a roommate, though. When a bunch of grown-ups get together and decide to pool resources, skills, and time, something remarkable happens: Life gets easier. When I first moved into the Bond House, I had no idea how little I knew about making a salad. I know, it sounds ridiculous. However, making a salad is a hosting skill that most people do not possess. My housemate Claudia knew, though, and so did Gizem. Through them, I learned how to make nutritious and interesting meals. Most of the time, I didn’t have to cook, and groceries cost me a fraction of what they cost my other city friends.
Honestly, most of my closest friends are people I met in the Bond House, whether or not they still live in Boston. As someone who is naturally guarded and hard to know, this is amazing.
But this isn’t a story to convince you to buy a house with your four closest friends (though, maybe that is a good idea given the state of…well, everything). What I hope you take away from the story is this: creating intentional bonds with people is good for you. As you read my novel, I hope you laugh; I hope you cry; I hope you close the book with a warm little feeling in your chest.
A Lot of People Live in This House launches on May 26 and is now available for pre-order.