They say to write what you know. I never wanted to write about my life, though. My mother was always trying to get me to read her favorite true-life stories and “realistic” dramas, but why would I want to read about people who live through everyday things? Why would I want to write about the boring, mundane life I was already living? I read books as an escape, and I write for more of the same. If I want reality, it’s all around me, and it’s often not all that much fun.
So I wrote — and still write! — stories about werewolves, vampires, magical dragon queens, and other things far, far removed from the stress and the dullness of my everyday life.
Reality, though, kept creeping in. Characters were inspired by real people I knew. Real events informed the way werewolves or vampires interacted. The first time I wrote about heartbreak was after my own first breakup. It didn’t really matter that the fictional character feeling the pain was a lost dragon princess, the heartbreak was my own.
The best stories, it turns out, are ones with little bits of reality injected into them, and the best characters are fundamentally human, even when they have fur or fangs or scales.
Life sometimes imitates fiction, though, just as much as good fiction imitates life.
I’d been writing stories of happy gay men together for years and years before I realized they had anything to do with me. I was in a wonderful relationship with a man who is now my husband, but I myself was obviously a woman. My books were all published under “Stephanie Park,” after all, the name I’d gone by all my life. And yet somehow I could never get into the head of a female protagonist in quite the same way, no matter how I tried. All my favorite self-insert characters kept being men. How strange!
It took years, but eventually the truth dawned on me. It took years more to be comfortable with admitting to it in public, but eventually I channeled at least some of my new understanding into my stories, including into Three of Hearts, whose protagonist, Noah, is a trans man.
Cutting ties with “Stephanie” has been hard, especially given that all my publicity, and all my published books and stories so far were under that name! Though of course some of the more personal parts of this journey have been even harder.
I’m publishing now as S. Park, though, and amusing myself by insisting people pronounce it “spark.” As I continue to write, I continue to find ways in which my real life fits into my escapist fantasies, and ways in which my fantasies come around again to my life. It’s been quite a journey, and I’m sure there’s still a long ways to go!
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