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Anne Louise Bannon Asks How Do You Use Your Past?

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Old Los Angeles series, the Freddie and Kathy 1920s series, and the Operation Quickline series. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her latest post here.

Way back in my errant youth, I was going to be an actor. I majored in theatre as an undergrad, then went on to get my master’s degree in the same subject. After graduating (and producing a child), I took acting classes and met a young woman who produced plays in what was then called an Equity-waiver house. Actor’s Equity Association is the union that represents stage actors in the U.S. An Equity-waiver house is a theatre with 99 seats or less, which means that the rules about paying union-scale to union actors are waived because a theatre with so few seats is not considered economically viable.

I ended up associate producing a play with this young woman and had a blast. Didn’t do it again, though. That “not economically viable” thing. However, not only was it a fun experience, it really stayed with me. Some years later, in fact, I had one of those weird dreams that ended up a plot-line, then a new character starting talking to me, and eventually, I had a novel started that took me over 20 years to get around to finishing. But when I had to give my character, Daria Barnes, a reason why she would be working for her best buddy, a private investigator, I made her a play producer who couldn’t make enough money to live on doing what she loved.

Book Cover. Ellen Hart presents Malice Domestic Mystery Most Theatrical. Quill and ink, stack of books, and teacup with a skull and crossbones above it.

I also wrote an origins short story about how Daria and Berto, her friend, met that took place during the rehearsals of a play that Daria was working on. That story got into the Malice Domestic anthology, Murder Most Theatrical, in which my fellow Blackbird Sharon Lynn is also featured. And, yeah, the setting was a lot like what I’d seen way back working that play.

The novel is Rage Issues, and it doesn’t come out until October. But you can sign up for my newsletter before September 7, and get an exclusive link to buy the book before it officially launches.

So while Rage Issues owes a lot to that play experience, so does an upcoming Operation Quickline book, Just Because You’re Paranoid (which won’t be out for a couple years yet because I went overboard and wrote up a bunch of books ahead). I used the building where the theatre I worked in was located as a setting for a shootout with a suspect. Of course, the whole Operation Quickline series is riddled with events and bits from my past. Part of that is possibly because I originally wrote the series while I was an undergrad and grad student in theatre. And part of that is my past is some of my richest material.

So, how do you use your past?

Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon is the author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, the Operation Quickline Series and the Old Los Angeles series, set in the 1870s. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Anne, you certainly have a rich past that energizes your writing. I feel that using what we know or have experienced gives our writing authenticity. To that end, I created twin characters within my Botanic Hill Detectives team since I am one of five sets of twins in my family. My love of classic movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age plays a major role in my second book that references a silent movie actor. And those multistorey old houses where my characters nestle and climb lofty staircases are constructed from powerful memories of my childhood neighborhood. Your entertaining post reminded me of the poet Tennyson’s quote: “we are a part of all that we have met,” which will inevitably spill over into our writing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Anne, I loved learning about the Equity-waiver house and how your past has influenced your books. I guess we all bring a bit of ourselves into our writing. For me, I’ve been married to a veterinarian for almost forty years, so my past is reflected in the vet protagonist I’ve created in my Timber Creek K-9 mysteries. And then, my experience with dog obedience training and search and rescue training helps me with my character who is a K-9 handler. The setting comes from me growing up in a small town in the Colorado high country, and the knowledge of ranching and the rural setting comes from my childhood as well. Very interesting post, Anne! Thank you!

      1. Avatar
        Avanti Centrae

        What a fun post! Great question too, as I’m sure most authors write what they know to some extant. My experience travelling internationally, working as a raft guide, and even my short stint as a reporter all color my writing!

        1. Anne Louise Bannon
          Anne Louise Bannon

          Avanti, it’s amazing how we all have such fun and different experiences.

  3. Avatar

    I enjoyed reading about how your experiences were filtered into your novels, but the most interesting fact, for me, is that you were/are an actor. Many of the same skills in acting transfer to the page when an actor becomes an author. Slipping into and out of different characters is how we are able to craft authentic narrative and dialogue. Kudos to you for tapping into your right-brain to bring your creativity to life.

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      Thanks, Saralyn! Having an performance background also helps me read my works aloud effectively.

  4. Avatar

    A fun and interesting post, Anne. Aspects of my past have influenced my books. I was a high school Spanish teacher and the sleuth in my mystery GIVING UP THE GHOST is an English teacher. I live in a gated community, and one of my series is set in a 55-and-over gated community (which mine isn’t.) Then again, I’ve included ghosts in several of my books and that doesn’t come from personal history . . .

  5. Tim Chapman
    Tim Chapman

    I’ve known a lot of disreputable people who continue to inspire some of my characters, but Margaret’s K-9 answer reminded me of my favorite use of a past experience. One of my dogs, Mia, and I were hiking in the woods. She spotted a deer and took off after it, and I took off after her. The deer easily outdistanced us, but at some point I went from chasing after Mia to chasing with her. We were a pack, loving the chase together. After that, we were inseparable. I wrote a similar scene for one of my (as yet unpublished) middle-grade novels. Thanks for the memory prod, Anne.

  6. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    Ah, Anne, your checkered past! Those experiences are so useful. But in my case, it’s my present.

  7. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    Yeah, well, I have to use my past. I don’t have as interesting a present as you do, Sheila.

  8. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Loved your post. I took an acting class in college. I had to learn how to light a cigarette for a scene, which I’d never done (and still don’t do). My eventual degrees in journalism and my own heritage as a Belgian certainly influenced the creation of Ava Oosterling in my Fudge Shop Mystery Series.

  9. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Thanks for the shoutout, Anne! When I read your short story in Mystery Most Theatrical everything about it rang true.
    I grew up in the theater – literally. My parents helped found a community theater and my dad directed while my mom acted. I spent nights sleeping in theater seats while rehearsals ran late. Everything from Neil Simon to Ionesco floated into my sleepy ears. It’s no surprise that I wound up with a Masters in it.

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      What a wonderful experience! So much fun, and happy to do the shout out.

  10. Valerie Biel
    Valerie Biel

    What a fun post! I include so many places I’ve lived and traveled in my stories. I have yet to use farming know-how from growing up on a dairy farm in my books (not sure I ever will), but I’ve certainly channelled the inner machinations of small-town living into my stories. (People think big cities are dangerous . . . ha! . . . small towns can be pretty treacherous in sneaky ways.) Thanks for writing this!!

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      Thank you, Valerie! I’ll have to pick your brain about dairy farming at some point. It’s a minor character at the moment, but who knows?

  11. Valerie Biel
    Valerie Biel

    I’m your gal!! And if I don’t know the answer I can get it very quickly. 🙂

  12. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    Great post, Anne and great way to use your past! Personally, my unsettled past provides lots of options to resurface in my writing. I was a news reporter and editor, a paralegal, and a teacher, for starters. All of those occupations help my main character have an eclectic background, too.

    1. Anne Louise Bannon
      Anne Louise Bannon

      I know, Joy! I was a reporter and TV critic, too. All sorts of fun things to work with. Mwah-hah-ha!

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