Like most authors, I write about what I know. My books are set in places I've actually lived, my characters similar to people I've actually known, and my heroines often bear a striking resemblance to myself. But a couple of years ago I had an experience that blurred the lines between my fictional life and my real life in a way that had me shaking in my stilettos.
At the time I was single and dating and was contacted by a guy through an online dating service. He was a mixed marital arts fighter, which sounded kinda interesting, so I agreed to meet him for a check-you-out coffee. Turns out, he was interesting. And hot, too, which made for great combo. We did coffee again later that week, and again that weekend, and it seemed like we were really clicking. So when he asked me out for dinner the following week, I was psyched. I agreed to meet him at his house at seven that Friday.
Friday comes, and I get to his place exactly at seven and knock on the door. Nothing. I ring the bell. I wait. And wait. Finally his roommate answers, lets me in, then promptly leaves. So, left alone, I go down the hall to Fight Boy’s room. The door is open, so I push my way in with a, “Hello? Anyone home?” The TV is on, but he’s not there. I decide to sit down and wait, figuring he's just in the shower or something.
A few minutes go by, and there's still no sign of him. I’m feeling a little odd hanging out in his bedroom like this. I mean, I don’t know him that well. So I get up, kinda peek around the rest of the house. He's not in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, or backyard. ‘K, odd.
I go back to his bedroom and wait a few more minutes. He still doesn't show. And it's getting late now. So that’s when I really start checking out his stuff. (Investigating, if you will.) His keys are on the nightstand, so is his cell phone. He wouldn't leave the house without those, right? So he must be someone nearby or on foot. I try texting him, just to make sure that’s his phone on the nightstand. Yep, my text (“I’m here. Where R U?”) shows up on the phone. So his stuff is here, but where the heck is he?
And that’s when things went from odd into mystery novel territory.
I hear a noise. It’s coming from the closet and sounds like a sort of something-shifting sound. I look up. And, I swear on my life, a body part falls out.
A. Body. Part.
It looks like someone's knee. Or elbow. Definitely covered in flesh, definitely not moving. I freeze. Has someone been in the closet watching me this whole time? I get up and walk out of the room, totally casual like, pretending I didn't see anything. I'm thinking either a) he's been sitting here watching me from his closet (creepy!), or b) he was doing something totally embarrassing when I walked in and has been hiding in his closet this whole time(double creepy!) or c) there's a dead body in there (so beyond creepy!)
I wait in the kitchen, letting my pulse return to normal and giving anyone hiding in there a chance to get out and slink away seemingly unnoticed. I contemplate leaving… but my purse is still in the bedroom. I take a few deep breaths, then slowly go back in his room.
Yup, the knee is still there. Definitely human. Sticking out of the closet. Not moving at all.
This is the moment where one of my mystery novel heroines would have peeked in the closet, found out who the knee was attached to, why they were there, and if they were, in fact, dead or alive.
Me? I grab my purse and bolt. Hit the front door, run to my car, lock the doors, peel out of there so fast my tires squeal, then drive straight home.
I know, I’m a total chicken. It’s a hard thing to admit when I’ve spent my life writing about brave kick-butt chicks who laugh in the face of dead bodies. Me? I was lucky I didn’t pee my pants.
Needless to say, that was the end of Fight Boy and me. I did hear from him afterward (which was a good thing, because I was feeling just the teeniest bit guilty about leaving my date possibly dead in his own closet), but I never did find out where he was or whose body that was. I’ll be honest, I didn’t ask too many questions. There are some situations where it pays to be blissfully ignorant of the facts. (Witness protection never looked like my cup of tea, ya’ know?) All I know is he beats people up for a living, and someone’s body was in his closet. Best case scenario: they were passed out. Worst case: my fingerprints are now all over a crime scene.
So, as much as I hate to say it, I would never make it as a mystery novel heroine. I’m going to have to settle for writing about my much braver, much more fictional counterparts. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but fiction is so much safer.
Deadly Cool is currently available from HarperTeen!
Synopsis: Hartley Grace Featherstone is having a very bad day. First she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with the president of the Herbert Hoover High School Chastity Club. Then he's pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And if that weren't enough, now he's depending on Hartley to clear his name. Seriously? Not cool.
But as much as Hartley wouldn't mind seeing him squirm, she knows he's innocent, and she's the only one who can help him. Along with her best friend, Sam, and the school's resident Bad Boy, Chase, Hartley starts investigating on her own. But as the dead bodies begin to pile up, the mystery deepens, the suspects multiply, and Hartley begins to fear that she may be the killer's next victim.
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Gemma, Thank you SO much for sharing this.... truly scary story. I have no idea what I would have done, but I'm sure there would have been some sort of panicking. Maybe even a scream. Yeah, I would have freaked out, without a doubt. Also, thank you so much for donating the copy of Deadly Cool for this giveaway!
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