What Happens When Real Life Meets Fiction and Vice Versa - April Henry
It’s been six months since Girl, Stolen came out.
Here’s the book description: Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside. Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of Nike, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?
I’m starting to feel like this book and real life are tangled up in ways that none of my other books have ever been.
The real daughter of Nike's president
When I was finishing the edits for the book, I met a young woman (to protect her privacy, I’ll not say where nor use her first name). We got to talking. Her mom, she said was a marathon runner. And her dad worked at Nike. “What does he do?” I asked.
“Oh, he used to design shoes, but now he works in management.”
And I just kept asking questions about him - until I figured out that her dad was actually the president of Nike. Just like my character's dad!
I told her, “Wow! I just wrote a book about you. Only you’re older and taller and don’t look much like my main character, and of course you’re not blind - but other than that, you are exactly alike!”
I ended up giving her a bunch of my other books (luckily I always keep some in my car) and sending her a Word document of Girl, Stolen.
The real stolen girl
Girl, Stolen was inspired by a real incident that happened in 2005 much like the one in the book. Only in real life the bad guy forced her out of the car after just a few blocks. For years, I wanted to find that young woman who was accidentally kidnapped. For a long while, I didn’t even have her name. I hadn’t written it down all those years ago.
Then when I did manage to figure out her name last year, it did me no good. It’s a kind of common name, and it’s also the name of a retired congresswoman.
A few weeks ago, I thought of asking the Oregon Commission for the Blind if they knew her.
They did and facilitated us getting in touch.
And it turns out that the girl (a young woman now) wants to be a writer! What are the chances of that? Plus she thinks it's cool that her real life experience inspired a book.
The real Cheyenne Wilder
The third weird coincidence happened this weekend. I got an email from a teenager. Her name? Cheyenne Wilder.
My Cheyenne is 16, five foot five, and 1/32 Native American. The real-life Cheyenne is 15, five foot five, and 1/16 Native American.
Have you ever had fiction and real life seem to coincide?
[Of course, authors often work from real life. I have a new book out today for adults (co-written with Lis Wiehl). It's called Heart of Ice, and it's about a sociopath. While I was researching it, I realized I knew two people who actually are sociopaths (just garden variety sociopaths who manage to screw up people's lives , not serial killers]. Knowing that has, for better or worse, has explained a lot.]