FAQ for A Few Kinds of Wrong

Is A Few Kinds of Wrong based on a true story?

No. Of course, you take things from your life and from stories you’ve heard–anyone who says that they take nothing from life is probably forgetting that they did–but the book is, as with this much is true, complete fiction. About the only thing that the main character Jennifer and I share is the weeping gene which makes us cry at things like coffee commercials.

Why a female mechanic as your main character?

My first response would probably be “why not” but I guess there are a few reasons. The character of Jennifer had to be very close with her father and work with him every day. Sure, she could have done that in a lot of jobs but working in a garage with him just felt right and once I’d hit on that idea, it seemed a good one. I liked the idea of a woman in a no-traditional job and couldn’t remember reading another book with a female mechanic in it. Also, I’ve been around mechanics my whole life. My dad was a mechanic until his retirement, my husband is a mechanic, my father-in-law was a mechanic until he retired and even my brother is an aircraft mechanic. I grew up with stories from the garage.

Is your father alive?

I hesitated to include this question in this FAQ, as if the gods of irony would get to work and change things if I answered it, but it is the question I am asked most often about this book. So, I’ll just say I was very happy to have my dad and my mom at the recent launch of A Few Kinds of Wrong.

Did your husband help in writing this book?

He (Vince) really should get some kind of credit as a technical consultant or something. Earlier drafts of this manuscript were full of things like [?Vince, what is a really greasy job for here?} or [?Vince, what would make a lot of noise here?] or [?Vince what’s the real name of that thingy?]. As my husband is always my first reader, it seemed only natural that I add these questions into the text. But he also helped me with the many stories he’s told me over the years and giving me the feeling that I understood the inside of the garage so I could (hopefully) make the atmosphere in garage scenes seem real.

Where did you get the title A Few Kinds of Wrong?

Well, I got the idea from Gwyneth Paltrow. I watched her in an interview on the talk show, The View, and she was talking about a relationship she’d once had. She said there were a few kinds of wrong in that relationship. The line hit me and hit me hard. I just thought it said so much and so little at the same time. It stuck with me. It was some time later that I was looking for a title for the book I was writing. I knew enough to know the main ideas of the book but really none of the details. I did know that this character, a mechanic named Jennifer Collins, had been very close to her dad. Her dad had died suddenly and her marriage had subsequently ended. I knew the novel would take place some time after the father had died and that Jennifer was still not dealing with it well, or at all. I knew that she had misinterpreted a lot of things and that she didn’t like how other people were somehow moving on with their lives while she couldn’t or wouldn’t. How all that happened or what all those misinterpretations were about, I had no idea. So, I knew that, just like when Gwyneth Paltrow had said it, there were a few kinds of wrong in Jennifer’s life and that while it said so much, it also said so little since I didn’t know all the specifics of Jennifer’s problems yet myself. And then boom, like in most writing, the line just popped back into my head as the perfect fit. At least the perfect fit for where the book was then. It was always a working title but by the time I finished the book and a couple of people had read it, everyone thought it seemed a fitting one still and so it stuck. (Thanks, Ms. Paltrow.)

FAQ for this much is true

Is the character of Lisa in the book based on you?

No. Lisa is fictional although she may share some traits of mine like she is from Aspen Cove and so am I; she has a BA from Memorial University as do I; we both had dogs named Taylor; and we both worked in a detox. We also share a fear a fear of public speaking but don’t most people share that fear? I would say that I would like to be a little more like Lisa in that she has more confidence than I do and speaks her mind more than I do.

Did you the base the character of [insert character name here] on me or someone I know?

No. It amazes me that everyone I know seems to think that either they are the basis of a character or that they have figured out who is the basis of a character. Like any writer, I suppose I take bits and pieces of people  I have met but all of the characters in the book are completely ficitonal with the exception of Rain. Rain is similar to a friend of mine only in that my friend is artsy so she, and some of her artsy friends, gave me the basic idea for Rain.    That is where her similarity to Rain ends because my friend is probably the anti-Rain. Her nickname would be Sunshine.

Is the detox in the book the same as the one you worked at?

No. The detox I worked in physically resembled the one in the novel,  at least at first. We later moved to a new building.  Some general descriptions of what it was like to work  at a detox are also a little true but sometimes exaggerated (I’m not telling which parts are which). None of Lisa’s specfic experiences at the detox ever happened to me or anyone I know and none of the characters in the detox are based on real people. They are figments of my overactive imagination.

Are Lisa’s experiences the same as yours?

No. I could list all the differences between Lisa and me but it is easier just to say “no” since almost nothing Lisa experiences ever happened to me.  Two quick examples of our very different lives are that I have never lived anywhere but Newfoundland and Labrador and I lived with my boyfriend from the age of eighteen until we got married 19 years later. Our parents were fully aware of this. In fact, when we moved into our first apartment, my mother gave me a plaque with a Cathy cartoon on it and told me to put it over our bed. It said “Your mother knows what you’re doing”. It is still over our bed now, and has been in every apartment and house we’ve lived in. Also, I like to keep good news, rather than bad, from my parents and kept quiet about my wedding and my pregnancies until I could give them great and happy surprises.

You said almost nothing that happened to Lisa happened to you. What things are the same?

Well, some small things may be similar like the things I explained above in the first question on this page.  I may have smelled something once that smelled  like something Lisa smelled in the book or some descriptions of places are the same. I definitely ate and drank some of the same things Lisa did (I did the tequila, 7-Up and “shake” thing Lisa does in the book although it did not lead to the same outcome). The only specific thing I can think of which Lisa did that I did (other than the “shake” thing) was an experience in the chapter “The Long Forgotten Sister” where Lisa talks about having to speak  in front of a group of people at MUN. With some small differences, that experience happened to me.

How did you come up with the idea of this much is true?

Well, it was really a case of the cart before the horse. I had most of the book written before I figured out a way to join all the separate pieces of Lisa’s life together.  I had started writing her story after I returned from a short vacation in Toronto during a heat wave. I was so thankful to be back home in Newfoundland and Labrador and thought how awful it would be if I had to leave for good as so many people have to do. I started the story of someone who left and hated it then Lisa took up permanent residence in my head. I began to think of other things that happened to Lisa and wrote lots of chapters (I had to cut out a lot of them when it came time to finish the manuscript) with no idea how to connect all these separate sections of Lisa’s life. Then, I was watching a show about someone who worked in a British Embassy         and the backdrop of the show was her writing letters home to tell what was happening. Supposedly, all the things in the show were things she wrote back home,  like sexual encounters and the like. The kicker was when there was a bomb explosion at the embassy. This girl talked about it in her letter and I thought to myself, that I would never have told my parents that. I would have told them that I had been off sick on the day of the explosion. CLICK! I realized that Lisa could tell her parents how great things were going when the opposite was true because so many people do that, either in a big or small way. It’s universal.

Is it true that you are obsessed with pens?

Yes. I’m afraid this one is true. I collect fountain pens, as well as pens of all sizes, shapes and price ranges. I have gone out in a blizzard  to get a new $2.49 pen I saw in a flyer. My worst pen confession is that I will always try to identify a pen on screen. If it is a television show I have taped or a movie I have rented, I will rewind and rewind again until I figure out what kind of pen it is or know enough about its appearance to allow me to start my quest for that pen. Sad, I know, but true. There are no twelve-step programs for people like me but      there are great places to talk to other people about pens like the Zoss Pens Listserv and  the Pentrace Message Board. If I have just fueled your addiction to pens even further by giving you this information, I both apologize to your spouse and give you a hearty welcome.

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