Friday, July 8, 2016

Write what you know. It’s fun! By Jan Scarbrough

“Write what you know.”
― Mark Twain / Source Goodreads

I’ve never ridden a bull (or attempted to). Does Twain mean I can never write about a bull rider?  Not necessarily. Nathan Englander says, “Write what you know isn’t about events. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss?”

I do that. I write what I know—about events that I’ve experience and my emotions.

Kentucky Woman opens in Louisville, where I live. The novel continues at a fictitious horse farm. The hero is Jackson Breckinridge, a banker and farm owner. The heroine is single mom and ex-jockey Alexis Marsden.

I love of horses. So I write about them.

His expression softened. “You’ve loved horses all your life, haven’t you?”

Where did that come from? She shrugged. “I’ve heard a theory that a person is either born with a horse gene or not. I guess I have it.”

“I was born with it too.”

“Horses are in your blood.”

“My Kentucky blueblood,” he said with a touch of self-mockery in his voice.

I was a single mother for many years.

“Can I watch TV?”

“Not on your life. Tomorrow’s a school day.”

When had she started sounding like her mother? Of course, Tyler knew he had school the next day. Odd how one’s best intentions faded once becoming a parent. Responsibility for a child’s life was a heavy, although joyous, burden.

And my experience with my own mother found its way into the book.

A familiar pang shot through Alex’s stomach. Why did her mother always make her feel like she was five years old? Defensive. As if her judgment was flawed.

Alex took a deep breath, hoping to steady her nerves. Her relationship with her mother was complicated. One minute Alex was the child. Next, the parent. In rare moments, they were friends. That’s when she did dumb things, like complain about Jack Breckinridge’s idiotic proposal.

I couldn’t even resist adding one of my pets into Kentucky Woman. Here I describe my dog Red, named Copper in the book.

Once in the house, Alex climbed the stairs to check on Tyler. His door was shut and she quietly pushed it open. Light from a nightlight illuminated the room just enough for her to see her little boy sound asleep, sprawled out in the middle of his new bed. At his feet lay a great big fuzzy dog, his sorrowful amber eyes looking up at her as if he knew he didn’t belong.

“Jack,” she called downstairs in a hushed voice. She put her finger to her lips when he joined her and then pointed into the bedroom.

Jack smothered a laugh. “It’s just Copper,” he said.


“The barn dog. She was a stray who adopted the farm.”

The copper-red dog’s flag-like tail thumped up and down on the bed as if asking for forgiveness and acceptance.

When you read a book, do you ever wonder what may be autobiographical in it?


  1. I do wonder that! And I'm glad to know this. It gives a reader a closeness to the stor she might not have otherwise.

  2. Wonderful post, Jan. I enjoyed it very much.

  3. I wonder how many of us have put our pets into our books. Raising my hand.


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