Thursday, August 27, 2015 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Growing Up on Margaretta Street by Rena Koontz

The Write Way Café welcomes Rena Koontz, who enriches her stories with details from real life. But should she?

I grew up on Margaretta Street.

I share that because, if you read the dedication in my new book, “Crystal Clear Love,” it mentions the kids who grew up on Margaretta Street, a cobblestoned incline that stopped at the edge of a mass of dense trees we fondly called “The Woods.”

Margaretta Street was a self-contained world for the more than one-dozen of us who lived there, all right around the same age. Because it was a dead-end street, the only traffic belonged to the residents, mostly our moms and dads, who knew enough to drive the hill slowly while watching for errant wiffle balls and out-of-control sleds. Those cobblestones turned as slick as ice in the winter. Yep, we played in the street. The skinny, wooden telephone pole, right about in the middle, served as home base for our hide-and-go seek games. Old Man Tucker’s car always marked the outfield for our pick-up baseball games. He never seemed to move that jalopy.

I wrote about all that in “Crystal Clear Love.” Yes, it’s a work of fiction, but it is also a case of real life landing on the pages of a contemporary romance novel. I discussed it with my lifelong friend, Cherrie, who becomes Sherry in the book. “You can write whatever you want, Reen. And I wouldn’t mind if you made me a little bad.” She’s always been a “good girl.”

I hashed it out with my buddy Mike, who is the fictitious hero and whose last name is different by just two extra letters. He threw his head back and laughed. “When it’s a best-seller, I’ll change the spelling of my name to his.”

And so I wrote the book, tapping into childhood memories, reliving specific antics, and capturing the joy of the kids I grew up with and the wonderful world we lived in. No drugs or alcohol crept up that dead-end street. No crime. We defined “bad” by a broken bone, a gash that required stitches, or a dented bumper.

We didn’t know – and didn’t appreciate – the idyllic youth we had in our little dead-end corner of the world.

Real life is portrayed on my pages in the flashbacks of the hero and heroine.

And now, I fret. What if Mike is offended by the depiction of his father, who did indeed smell like beer and drank a little too much of it? But knowing it and seeing it in print are two different realities. What if revealing a whispered intimacy secret crosses a line with Cherrie?

Authors are often advised to write what they know and I don’t think you can keep real life out of your books. I don’t know any other way to write than from my heart, and “Crystal Clear Love” is exactly that kind of book. But what if it wasn’t the right thing to do? What if it hurts feelings and reveals too much?

What do you do when real life nudges its way onto your pages?

For more about “Crystal Clear Love,” or Rena Koontz, visit her website at

About Rena:  Rena Koontz broke into the publishing world in 2012 with her debut novel, “Love’s Secret Fire.” It was quickly followed by “The Devil She Knew” and “Thief Of The Heart,” – all three romantic suspense novels that critics praised for keeping readers on the edge of their seats.
     But Rena had a love story in mind, just begging to be told – the book of her heart. “Crystal Clear Love” is Rena’s first contemporary romance, inspired by childhood friends and memories, and fictionalized from stories gleaned from her career as a journalist. Working as a news reporter at two of the country’s top 20 newspapers provided a writing journey that took Rena into the sports arena, politics, feature writing, editorial writing, and, her favorite, cops and courts. Along the way she met killers and kids who left an impression, victims and victors who beat the odds, and reported stories on life, loss and love.
     Her novels are the realization of a lifelong dream to write stories that combine romance, suspense and strong female characters designed to mirror today’s women.
     A Pittsburgh native, Rena lives in Central Florida.


Lynn said...

Hey Rena! Love your post. You're so cute! I loved the book, too.

Becky Lower said...

Hi Rena, loved this post. I never cease to learn new things about you. I loved this book, too.

Susanne Matthews said...

Real life often makes it onto the pages of my books. I don't see how an author can do otherwise. What you experience is part of who you are.

Rena Koontz said...

Thank you Lynn, Becky and Susanne for the votes of confidence. I'm still fretting!

Barb H said...

Great post, Rena. We write fiction. The fact that you garner stories from your youth adds more color to your writing. Whose to say what is real and what is made up. If these people care about you, then they shouldn't be offended. Loved this.

HiDee said...

Our life experiences definitely color our writing. I agree with you completely that we didn't appreciate our idyllic youth in our respective corners of the world. Sometimes I really wish I could go back and enjoy that time again!

Angela Adams said...

I'm thinking of the song, "Margaretta-ville." Loved the post!

Rena Koontz said...

Thanks, Barb,
For the record, it's all fiction.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Rena Koontz said...

Oh Angela,
Now I'm thirsty.
Let's meet in Margaritaville someday

Rena Koontz said...

I don't know, HiDee,
What if it wasn't as good?
Like hooking up with a former lover.
Scary - very scary

HiDee said...

Good point, Rena. I was thinking more of going back to a time when life was care-free...