Today I am happy to have as my guest, fellow Oak Tree Press author, JL Greger, who will tell us how MEMORIES CAN ADD REALISM TO NOVELS.  She will also introduce you to her latest book “I Saw You In Beirut”.  Apparently, she likes to walk on the edge because this is only my second attempt at hosting an author, which didn’t seem to scare her in the least. Let’s read what she has to say

Memories Can Add Realism to Novels

Novels by definition are fiction, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t contain bits of reality, i.e. facts. Think about it! Downton Abbey would lose its zing without its authentic costumes and references to World War I and the Great Depression.


Sometimes these facts can be introduced into fiction through the author’s memories—personal, and probably slightly biased, facts. I guess a purist would say memories and facts are often distinctly different. I don’t want to argue the point today. 


In my latest thriller, I Saw You in Beirut, Sara Almquist’s past, as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and as a globetrotting epidemiologist, provides clues for the extraction of a nuclear scientist from Iran.


How did I use my memories in this thriller? Easy. I combined several of my memories with facts and lots of fiction. The University of Wisconsin-Madison was awash with Iranian students protesting the Shah in the late 1970s. I was a professor there and the graduate advisor of one of these students. Conversations with her and her friends served the basis of creating the fiery character Farideh in I Saw You in Beirut.

The scene in Chapter 3 in which Sara, then an undergrad, watches as Farideh takes a knife, which she was using to slice a cake, and threatens an annoying fellow grad student called Danny, is based on my real memories as a professor. At the time I was so pissed at both students for their stupidity, I wasn’t even frightened by the knife. In the novel I entwined my memories into the character development of Farideh. Obviously, Sara’s emotions and memories as a nineteen-year-old student in the novel don’t mimic my own. My memories only provided the outline for the scene.


We all have memories usable in fiction. Perhaps, you can remember with horror a car accident or the death of a love one. You could use your painful memories of you raw emotions to make a scene in a novel memorable to others.


Authors frequently use travel recollections and memorabilia to populate scenes in their novels. In the 1990s, I consulted on issues in biology (medicine and agriculture) at the United Arab Emirates University in El Ain and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Yes, you guessed right. My fictional Sara just happened to also have consulted (but on epidemiology) in the Emirates and Lebanon. Sara’s descriptions of scenes in Al Ain and Beirut parallel my observations. I even saw a yield sign with a camel, which resemble the picture on the cover I Saw You in Beirut, in the Emirates.


Why don’t you search you memory for ideas for your next novel or short story?

In I Saw You in Beirut, a mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked. 


CF I Saw You in Beruit 300 copy (2)

I Saw You in Beirut is available in paperback at Amazon: and on Nook at: 


NEWS FLASH: GoodReads will give away free copies of I Saw You in Beirut. Enter between January 9-15 at:


Bug&me5Bio: JL Greger’s thrillers and mysteries include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, and Coming Flu, and I Saw you in Beirut. Malignancy and Ignore the Pain include remembrances form her travels in Cuba and Bolivia, respectively. Bug (shown in the picture) rules their house and is a character in all her novels. Her website is:

JL and I would both love to hear from you, so please leave a comment to let us know you stopped by.  Don’t forget her Goodreads Give-A-Way and check out “I Saw You In Beirut” at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.



About jtzortman

Author of "WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW" - A Grandparent's Journey Through Grief, first place award winning novel "FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST" and award-winning novel "SNOW ANGEL". Contributing author to anthologies "Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides", "American Blue", "Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook" and "The Centennial Book of The National Society of Daughters of the Union 1861-1865". Numerous articles, poems and short stories published since 1990. Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association and member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Winner of ten writing awards. I live in a quaint Colorado mountain tourist town with my husband and Siamese cat. When deeps snows blanket the terrain and spectacular views from my windows, it becomes the perfect spot in which to write.
This entry was posted in Authors, books, JL Gregor, Oak Tree Press. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Being a huge fan of realism in fiction, I sure enjoyed this post. Isn’t it fun to keep readers guessing what comes from “real life” and what’s entirely of the imagination!


  2. JL Greger says:

    Nancy, yes it’s fun. The only problem is sometimes the most “unrealistic” scenes are factual. I guarantee not many profs have broken up knife fight between grad students.

    I want to thank Jackie for hosting me.

    Don’t forget to enter the GoodReads giveaway for I Saw You in Beirut between January 9-15 at:


  3. amreade says:

    Oh my goodness–I Saw You in Beirut sounds great!! Loved the post about realism and memories of places and events. Thank you!


  4. John M. Wills says:

    Thanks for a great post.


  5. JL Greger says:

    Amreade, be sure to enter the Good Reads Giveaway. Maybe you’ll be lucky, if not the book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle format and in Nook format at Barnes and Noble.


  6. mmgornell says:

    Love the camel picture! Great post, and much success with I Saw You in Beirut.


  7. JL Greger says:

    Oops I know it should be Madeline not Marilyn. My apologies.


  8. I quite enjoyed Janet’s I Saw You in Beirut! It is obvious that much of the realism in the story comes from first hand experience. It’s a crazy part of the world to visit nowadays, so it’s nice to be able to see the Middle East from the safety of a book. A good and twisty mystery.


  9. Sounds like these memories were so vivid they were indelible. The knife incident certainly would have been hard to forget. I’ve been living in my memories from 1969-70 as I write my current novel. Wish I’d kept a journal, I’m sure there are all sorts of details that would be great to use if only I remembered them.


    • JL Greger says:

      Carolyn, I agree I wish I’d kept a journal. However, I kept journals when I traveled. Sometimes they are hard to use because I can’t read my handwriting. Oh well.


  10. sharonervin says:

    You were right about getting more responses to a real account of a friend who contributed to your life rather than just promoting a book. Great advice. I follow that line of thinking myself. Good job.


    • jtzortman says:

      It’s good to know I am in good company with my blog choices, Sharon. Nice to know we’re on the right track when we make such choices. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  11. JL Greger says:

    What a kind comment. Thank you. don’t forget: win a free copy of I SAW YOU IN BEIRUT on Jan vary 14-16:


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