*Carmen is based on a personal friend, with whom I once taught at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Wayne, PA. While her name has been changed, the rest of the character is true to her real-life counterpart. Carmen also creates a contrast between Madeline and her peers, with Carmen assuming another "big sister" role in Maddy's life.
*Although the book is loosely autobiographical, it is definitely not a documentary. Not all of Madeline's experiences are my experiences; some are actually gleaned from various conversations I've had with female friends who love to talk about the happenings in their lives!
*Certain elements of real life experience have been embellished and/or used as a springboard to create more drama and intrigue. In many cases, I condensed the time period between events to tighten up the story. For example, Jake's (based on a real person whose name I changed) phone call asking for forgiveness actually took place several years prior.
*Even the closest families have their difficulties, and mine is no exception; I worked hard to create balanced portrayals while also highlighting the importance of forgiveness -- another theme of the novel.
*The Pisces pendant that Ken gives Madeline at the restaurant was just a literary ploy to reinforce the Pisces/water imagery, although I have eaten many meals at The Ship Inn in Exton!
*Some plot points are left purposely vague. For example, I know of a woman who was raped on the beach by a former boyfriend. To give an added element of drama as well as a contrast between Ken and the rest of the men Maddy encounters, I created Ray Smith, an older guy who takes advantage of her. The point here is not about a crime being committed, but Maddy learning an important lesson about trusting her inner guidance. It also serves later on as a test of Ken's character and Madeline's courage.
*Since we are all free to filter literature through the prism of our own biases and experiences, some may interpret the book as a repudiation of traditional values. As the author, I can assure you it is not. Quite the opposite: the true merit in striving to live up to one's moral foundation lies in the fact that it is difficult. And it's only through faith, forgiveness and endurance through the trials of life that we become better people and develop a closer relationship with God.
*Although I wanted to, it just wasn't possible to immortalize every good friend through fiction; likewise, there were some real life events that didn't make the cut. Good thing, or the book might have been 800 pages!
*The character of Cassie is actually my cousin, Annie. :)
*I really did live with family friends, John and Madeline DiBrino, when I first moved to Florida. They were wonderful people who opened their home to me for nearly two months, until I got on my feet. My mom really did grow up with the Rita character (last name changed), whose daughter Debbie has been my hairdresser for 14 years!
*Elyse Lombard is based on a very close friend who is very much like another big sister to me. Our friendship grew even stronger as a result of a horrible tragedy -- the untimely death of her five year-old nephew from brain cancer. This awful incident is referenced in the story. And yes, in real life, this friend loves to offer unsolicited fashion advice!
*Audrey Solomon is also based on a dear friend with whom I also share a sisterly connection. She's really a foot and ankle surgeon, wife and mom of two (though her second baby wasn't born until well after the book was written).
*Water Signs delves into sensitive emotional and physical territory -- the kind of intensely personal matters most of us are reluctant to discuss. In addition to panic disorder, Madeline deals with overwhelming insecurites regarding the opposite sex and her own attractiveness; irregular menstrual periods; fear of physical intimacy and even pelvic floor dysfunction. Some of these are "borrowed" from friends' experiences; some are my own experiences.
*There is nothing gratuitous in my book, though there is plenty of "adult content." Maddy struggles to live up to her values while trying to date in the modern world and deal with her own grown-up desires. The chapters involving older, divorced man Mark Donnelly are an excellent example of this.
*I debated whether or not to include a consummation scene near the end of the book, but ultimately decided it was necessary in order to demonstrate the physical, emotional and spiritual growth of both characters. Still, I focused on making it more romantic (as opposed to explicit), by incorporating conversation and describing the setting in vivid detail. I am not as concerned about what the characters are doing as I am about how they are feeling and what they are thinking.
*Having made the above two points, it was still not easy to reconcile my inclusion of intimate scenes with some members of my family. As an author and an adult, I knew most people would certainly understand and approve; however, as a daughter I was well aware that my parents still think of me as their little girl. I am happy to report my mom loved the book, though she was a little put-off at first. Now she's my best PR agent!
*The karaoke scene is also pure fiction; however, I used to sing karaoke a lot with some close friends at a little bar in Pompano Beach. Getting up to sing in front of a crowd really was a fear I wanted to confront. Leather and Lace and Stop Draggin' My Heart Around were two numbers I used to perform with the bartender that worked there.
*The nicknames Elyse bestows on Madeline's parents -- "Yaki" and "Tootsie" -- are straight out of real life. A few years back, this friend and I took a road trip to Philly to visit my family. Though we were exhausted from the drive, my excited dad, who LOVES to take pictures, insisted we view his photo gallery from a recent trip to Italy. Thus, the nickname, Dr. Yakimoto, or Yaki for short!
*My mom has a very dear friend she calls "Lolly," short for Lauretta. My friend "Elyse" came up with "Tootsie" for my mom so they could be "Lolly-Pop" and "Tootsie-Pop." Silly stuff, but fun nonetheless!
*My grandmother really did leave me her engagement ring, a beautiful antique piece I wear every single day. Though many in the past had suggested I reset it, I steadfastly refused. And though I've worn it for years, I still get compliments!