Melissa, on the left, and some friends, at a famous Chapel Hill spot.Great news after an unexpected break: I’m going to be hosting author guest blogs here now, every Wednesday (don’t hold me to that, but I’ll try)! Are you excited? I know I am! I’m also thrilled that Melissa Walker has agreed to write the first guest blog for Teen Book Review. Thanks so much for doing this, Melissa! Melissa is the author of Violet on the Runway and Violet by Design, two fabulous books that you really should read, if you haven’t yet. You can also check out my interview with Melissa here. Without further ado, here’s Melissa fantastic blog:

Oh, the places I have been…

Thanks for having me, Jocelyn! I wanted to touch on something close to my heart, which is, um, home.

Every fiction writer makes stuff up, right? Yes, but I bet if you ask them, they might admit to cribbing quite a bit from real life.

When I started writing my first novel, Violet on the Runway, I tried to set it in a small town in Tennessee. After a few chapters, I knew that I had to take a step back. This wasn’t a town I knew about, these weren’t places I’d been. So I brought Violet into my world, Chapel Hill, NC, the town where I grew up. Incidentally, Sarah Dessen’s books are based in Chapel Hill, too, but she calls her fictional town Lakeview. She made a video about that here:

People always ask me if my characters are based on my friends (or maybe enemies). And the answer is yes. Not in the way that the characters are exactly like my friends, but I definitely pick up little habits from real people I meet and put them into my books. For example, I have a friend who loves to order a Sprite and Twizzlers at the movies, and then bite two ends off a Twizzler and drink through the candy straw (Violet does this too). I also had a crazy boss once who was nosy and hilarious and lots of fun—so I put bits of him into Violet’s theater manager.

And while it may seem weird that Violet works where I worked (in a movie theater), walks the same high school hallways that I did (at Chapel Hill High School) and even ends up considering going to college where I went (Vassar College), it’s not that unusual. After all, there’s that old author’s adage, “Write what you know.” So far, I’m sticking with that path (except for the runway model part—that I’ve never done!).