When I write a story or novel, there’s usually secrets that the reader doesn’t know, or something I’m not saying. I asked a group of authors for their secrets.
Do You Hide Any Secrets In Your Books That Only A Few People Will Find?
Here are their unedited responses.
Click on a photo to go directly to the author’s Facebook page.
I think it’s safe to say every author hides some secrets or references to other things we like in each of our novels- for me it’s a sort of personal stamp and another little connection I can form to my work- plus- if I ever meet a fan who understands the inside references, they’re an automatic super-fan. For example, I’ve got references to the Elder Scrolls Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, Nightwish, the Bible, plus other novels in the series that are yet unpublished. Plus, it’s simply fun to add personal touches like that just because we can.
Facebook: Kyle Waller
It’s one of my favourite things to do! I got somewhat overexcited in the first drafts, and only realised when my editor started pointing out things she didn’t understand. I’m about to finish Storytellers, which is set in Iceland, and I allude to Norse cosmology, but in such ways that if you know – you know, and if you don’t – you won’t miss anything. (Much.) Some of the names have a hidden meaning. There are a few short quotes from song lyrics I love, but if you don’t know the song it won’t harm your experience either. But I have to admit one of my dreams is to hear from an excited reader asking me “is [the thing] really what I think it is?”.
Secrets are one of the main themes of Storytellers. The original tagline for the book was “Is there really such a thing as a secret?” – if you’re the only one who doesn’t know all the darkest details of your life are widely discussed by everyone behind your back, do you still even have a secret? Most of the questions are answered, but some of them in more than one way. Who even knows which version is true? Only I do…and hopefully a reader or two.
My book, Hope After Trauma and PTSD, features true stories about trauma and deep brokenness in people’s lives. The story contributors shared honestly and openly so other people in similar situations would know they’re not alone. Usually, those vulnerable details are what a writer tries to protect. But I couldn’t. The book demanded those very personal details that would connect with readers’ lives.
So my challenge was to protect personal information, which was the very information we had to share. Ultimately, I protected the contributors’ privacy by changing names, dates, locations, and other facts that might identify a particular story writer. I made two exceptions, both for contributors who wanted their organization’s name known so others could inquire about their services.
I also went to great lengths to avoid using my last name. The name was from a previous marriage, and by using it, some people would have recognized certain details in the book. To protect privacy and avoid litigation, I legally changed my last name. It was time for a new name to match my new life. I didn’t have a family name to fall back on, so I created a name. “Segen” means “blessing” in German. I’ve had many blessings in life, and my heritage is German. There was another, almost humorous reason for the name: A website domain was available for it, SydneySegen.com. As is so often true, important decisions are both matters of the heart and also of practicality.
There’s always some truth to everything I write, so people who know me, past or present, may certainly pick up on a location I’m describing, a personality or even a phrase I use in my writing. My favorite author is Stephen King I read “The Talisman” by King and Peter Straub every summer…it’s my tradition. In this novel there’s a memorable character named Wolf and one of his repeated phrases is “Right here and now.” Sometimes I will sneak that phrase in as a nod of sort to other King fans. Placing secrets in our writing is not only fun for the readers, it’s fun for the writer as well!
In my book The Phantastic Zoo, the young characters hear nourishing stories from The Phoenix, The Mermaid and The Dragon. Secrets to living life with imagination are delivered with power and grace. To your question, these are things I wish to be discovered which I hope everyone hears and learns from. However, my books have a great secret. Beautiful audio albums are an integral part of the overall experience. All folks have to do, if I haven’t handed them one personally, is to email soundartus for the secret coupon code, then they can download the album or free. The album is filled with glorious fully developed symphonic music, voice acting and sound design. Not everyone downloads their album!
Robin Leemann Donovan
Hide things – who me? Hell yes, I’ve hidden a ton. So, you’re asking me to give it all up now? Let’s see where I can begin. Book one, Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch?, was written after a small group, lead by one of my business partners, who had a fairly public breakdown, tried to stage a coup and throw the other two of us out of our company. There are numerous veiled references to the details of the coup, e.g. wanting financial gain without having to invest, etc. One of the less savory characters in the book has the combined name of two of the conspirators. I could go on, but that would be too much of a spoiler alert. Let’s just say the murder victim will not be sorely missed. And suffice it to say the coup was unsuccessful.
In book two, I Didn’t Kill Her But That May Have Been Short Sighted, a great deal of the back story consists of true events from my early days in advertising. Although they’re not exactly hidden, the reader would never know fact from fiction. The inspiration for the murder victim actually did all of those obnoxious things. The events leading directly up to the murder, however, are all carefully crafted fiction. The hidden part consists of numerous little character traits and foibles that paint a startlingly accurate picture of my victim, right down to the physical description. Once you know the facts, you would never question the accuracy of the fiction. The portrayal of B.J. comes from years of watching and listening to her inspirations’ unprincipled behavior.
In book three, I Don’t Know Why They Killed Him He Wasn’t Really That Annoying, the major hidden message lies in the treatment of one of my former partners. He had joined the company shortly after “the coup” and was fine for a few years. Then had his own version of a breakdown. He’s featured in the first two books as my valued partner and legendary smart ass, Donny Miller. He makes an excellent foil to my protagonist, Donna Leigh. By the time I started writing this third book, the inspiration for Donny’s character had exited the company in a most contentious fashion. Throughout the book, there are references to his departure that are in reality private jokes.
Reading through my response I arrive at two conclusions: I have actually hidden quite a bit (and this is only the tip of the iceberg) and it’s unhealthy to be my business partner if you’re a man.
Last century, I wrote a series of high school mathematics text books for Australian students which I self-published in the pre-digital era and which were eventually published by McGraw-Hill. This century, two of these volumes formed the basis of my 376-page magnus opus, a glossy coffee table book about mathematics.
The rather amusing description of The Mathematics Book by one bookseller was: “This smart, stylish, sexy how-to-do-it-book, with more than 2000 problems, plus clever insights into the ideas, people, romance and history of all things maths, will have you banging out equations and solving problems like a modern-day Fibonacci. The aim is simple: to demonstrate that anyone and everyone can do it!”
But the big secret is… the book is also my personal memoir!
Within its pages, usually disguised, are references to my life’s journey. Friends, family members, students, my former husband and others who have been part of the journey are memorialised in some way. So are all my pets and numerous other furred and feathered creatures including Ilsa, a friend’s rescue goat that I adored, who passed away three weeks ago.
Many feature as characters in word problems and worked examples. While people may not like mathematics they are always so delighted to be part of a mathematics problem!
And it always a joy for me, to turn to some random part of the book and be reminded of a significant event or someone special.
When I started writing I constructed a story around an elaborate cabalistic framework and devised characters by fragmenting my birth chart into aspects and all that – great fun. And then I scuffed over the structure so that nobody would notice what I done until they started searching for clues, and then would begin a journey of discovery.
Since those early experiments I have more often done the opposite: Into a serious non-fiction text I would sometimes plonk a short personal message to a friend. The idea is that, what fun it would be to be reading a book and suddenly discover that, at one point, the author is speaking directly to you in person.
How silly of me!
Absolutely, one-hundred per cent. It’s so much fun to do that. I am still friends with people I went to primary and secondary school with and I drop things in that only they would know. Also, I was in the services, both the Royal Navy and the Army for 23 years, so I some of the scenes I develop are based on those and a few people might get them. Family sayings also find their way into the books. Maybe I should alert readers and see if they can guess what the secrets are. Come to think of it, that would make a fab competition.
There are serial killers in my books and readers often tell me they recognise the people who I’ve based the dead bodies on. That’s a really well-kept secret because even I don’t know them. No real people are harmed in the writing of my books.
I like hiding “winks” in my stories, little things that only certain people will recognize. Sometimes it’s a name or a reference or a glimpse of something they would only recognize if they’re “in on the joke”.
Easter eggs can be very subtle and when you hide them consistently and your readers recognize that, they tend to read more carefully or read more than once to be sure they caught them all.
My book series contains many veiled references to aspects and elements of folklore, mythology and Arthuriana. The protagonist of my novels is a character from Arthurian legend, but also exists outside of it in Celtic myth, and in European (mostly French, Italian and Catalan) literature, music and art. One of my goals with this book series is to revitalise ancient tales of folklore and tradition which once formed part of the fabric of people’s lives, but have now been either largely forgotten by mainstream culture, or commodified and commercialised beyond recognition.
Using mythical and folktale characters in plotlines is not so much a secret, but rather a clue or trail of breadcrumbs to where things might lead – both for readers who know the history and legend of these characters, and those who take it upon themselves to look them up as they go along. It’s also fun to confound expectations, which I do all the time! In this series, it’s never safe to assume that any character or event, whether famous or obscure, will turn out as you expect based on your knowledge of what has gone before. I suppose you could say that the secrets hidden within the novels lie in the characters themselves and in the weight of history behind them.