How cool is this? Win an Ebay auction, have your name immortalized in a certain bestseller. And all for a good cause.
I must admit, I have done this before, although on a (much) smaller scale. I have snuck in names of people I know into my books, usually just the last names ones, though. You have to be careful about it, but it is a nice way to thank and acknowledge someone. I’ve done it a lot with teachers. For instance in Dreamland, when Caitlin’s class is reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” her teacher, Mr. Lensing, is named after a professor I had at UNC, who taught a great class on modern poetry, one of the best I ever took during my four years of college. In “The Truth About Forever,” Jason and Macy’s English teacher is named after Mr. Sonnenberg, who taught me creative writing in high school. He had never taught it before, got thrown into it because of some staff reshuffling, and basically just let us write whatever we wanted, which was incredibly liberating and cool. I wrote the DARKEST stories, you guys have no idea. Lots of death and depression. I guess I had just had to get that out of my system, or something. I always wanted to thank Mr. Sonnenberg, but he moved away, so I stuck him in a book instead. Which he’ll probably never know, but still. It counts, right?
Occasionally, you can steal little things from your friends and use them as well. Like in That Summer, Haven’s dad has a thing where he imitates that “Lollipop Guild” (or Gang?) song from the Wizard of Oz. My boss at The Burrito used to do that sometimes, for a crowd. Dexter’s daring John Miller to eat a bunch of bananas? My friend Jeff was known to do that once in awhile, although never to me, which is good because although I like bananas, I’m not sure I could eat more than one at a sitting. And the Jedi Mind Trick, which Macon uses in Someone Like You (and which even made it into How to Deal): my husband swears by that. Whether it works for him is still up for speculation. Also, that scene where they meet, in the guidance office, when he asks “What’d you do?” is very similar to how I met my husband, about a million years ago. Very.
There are lots of others as well, most of which are completely escaping me now. It’s not something I always think about while I’m writing, as much as in the second pass, when a little of the pressure is off. Like a secret code, known only to me. And a few others.
Sometimes a person doesn’t even have to be real to get a mention. I wrote one novel a couple of years back that nobody liked but me, so I had to put it away. But when I was writing The Truth About Forever, and needed a name for someone in that same English class with Jason and Macy, I decided to use one of my main characters from that book. So when or if you read it, and there’s a mention of Amy Richmond, who is “no good at this Shakespeare crap,” and puts her head down on her backpack, falling asleep, know this: I have a whole book about Amy. A whole life for her! And while I agree it probaby wasn’t my best book, I still thought she should get something. So she did. Nice, right?