How Do You Make Them So Real?

Question:

Hello. I really love your books. Alice is near and dear to me. I was wondering what trials and tribulations that Alice faced were based on personal experiences? I also wondered where you get your inspiration from. You write in great detail about issues like sex and dating. I don’t mean this offensively, but how do you make Alice’s experiences so real when back when you were growing up things were a lot more innocent? I mean in middle school and high school girls there weren’t really any “Pamela’s” back in the day. So, how did you write her character so well?

Also, I came across a review I copied and pasted below. I am not sharing it to hurt your feelings, but I was wondering if you feel any of the comments make you wish you had written the last book differently. I also want to all you to speak for yourself as to why you wanted to have Alice’s character be that old by the end of the series? I LOVE YOU AND YOUR BOOKS

Phyllis replied:

I didn’t include the review you sent, because it was too long, too many spoilers, and someone else’s view, not necessarily yours.  So I’ll just respond to your own questions, which are good ones.  I knew when I wrote the last book that it could not be all things to all readers.  To cover that much ground in one book meant I had to select my scenes carefully.  Younger readers wished that I had stuck mainly to college life and the years just after.  Older readers were delighted to find references to their own lives, where Alice faces problems at work, in her marriage, and raising her own children.   When I made my book tour two years ago, I had expected teenage girls primarily, and was surprised to find women in their twenties, thirties, and older.  As long as there are far more positive reviews than negative, I’m happy.

To answer your specific questions, so many of Alice’s experiences are blurred memories of things that happened to me, all mixed up with friends’ experiences and things I read about in the newspaper. I remember interviewing a student at the University of Maryland for some of them, and one of my own sons graduated from there.  I take all these things from real life and mix them up with imaginings, so it’s hard to separate them.  As for our innocence back when I was in high school and college–yes and no.  It’s true that most of us weren’t going as far as sexual intercourse, but there were definitely girls and guys who did, most certainly a lot of Pamelas, and we definitely thought and talked a lot about sex.  Now and then a girl would drop out of school to have a baby, and I knew a couple who planned their pregnancy so they could marry.  I don’t know…in a way I think we enjoyed sex more because it was mostly foreplay, and that was certainly exciting, and kept us focused a lot on our feelings.

I knew when I wrote the book how it would end, and I most certainly wanted to take Alice to her 60th year, at least.  To so many young girls, 60 seems old, very old, like the end of the world, sort of.  I wanted to show a vibrant Alice who is starting a whole new career, because that, in actuality, happens to a lot of people.  Thanks so much for your thoughtful email.  I don’t take offense at criticism at all.

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