It’s not what you know, but who you know


One of the things a writer hears a lot is write what you know. That means different things to different people and, depending on how an author interprets it, she may or may not agree with that little tidbit of advice.

I spin it a little differently: Write who you know.

One of things I’ve seen written a lot about the Kowalski family from Exclusively Yours and Undeniably Yours is that they feel like “real” people. That probably stems in part from the fact I know those people. Not literally, of course. That’s never a good idea.

But I’m surrounded by men who work hard and respect their women. They give their brothers crap, but woe to the outsider with a bad word about one of them. I’ve waited my share of tables, as have my sister and my mother and my aunt and my grandmother and…well, you get the picture. I’ve never been to a nightclub and don’t really care to change that, but I’ll sit in a sports bar* and cheer on the Patriots. We laugh a lot, even through the rough stuff. Or maybe especially through the rough stuff. Small town, working-class people are my people. I know how they think. How they talk.

I can hang a profession on my character—make him a bestselling horror author or a former Navy SEAL or whatever the story calls for—but at the core he’s still a small-town, family-orientated guy who’s not afraid to work with his hands.

So I write not what I know, but who I know in the hope characters who feel genuine to me will also ring true for you, the readers.

*Quick tangent: It’s very easy to type sports bra instead of sports bar. You can imagine the typos I had!

So my first job was waiting tables in a café in a VERY small town in Missouri, where I accidentally refilled the sugar dispensers with salt. Trust me, that’ll really wake up a farmer at the butt-crack of dawn. What was your first job? Or your oddest job?

About 10am eastern tomorrow (to let all the time zones play), I’ll draw a random name from the comments to win a copy of either Exclusively Yours or Undeniably Yours.


Shannon Stacey has written romances in a variety of subgenres, but they all have one thing in common—-a happily ever after is guaranteed. She can be found blogging (almost) daily on her website, and is often spotted running amok on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

27 thoughts on “It’s not what you know, but who you know”

  1. my 1st job was at McDonalds the oddest thing abt it was how sad i felt everytime this small kid who lived nearby would come in to by his dinner.

  2. Kathy Ivan says:

    My very first job, while I was still in high school was at a local Easter Seals physical therapy center. My job was to wash out and clean the whirlpools after each person had their therapy appointment. Not exactly a “classy” job but at the time I was just happy to have a paycheck coming in. :-)

  3. Heather S says:

    My first job and by far the oddest was gluing in the bristles of brushes that would eventually clean chickens in a poultry plant. It was a very boring job (except people’s faces when I explained it to them) but great pay.

    By the way, loved the first book!

  4. Woodside Deli. We alleviated the boredom by playing practical jokes on one another and friends who came in for sandwiches (and friends who would leave with something extra on their roll. Usually what we called a “hot pocket” where we’d hollow out the middle of the roll, stuff it with horseradish, then pack ‘er back up again so it looked all legit like. Good times.)

    Undeniably Yours looks fabulous. Just plucked Exclusively Yours from my TBR file this morning and am loving it so far!

  5. That’s a great way of putting it — not to mention a fantastic way of looking at it. :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. Can’t say I’ve had any odd jobs, but my first job was as a waitress on a base in Germany. It was an eye opener for a 16 yo.

  7. Crista says:

    My first job was “front of house staff” at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (Yes, they have Shakespeare in Alabama). It varied from day to day what I did, but it was great for a HS kid because I got to do my homework “on the clock”.
    My oddest job? Definitely working in a morgue. My job was to receive the bodies when they arrived overnight — bag ’em, tag ’em, put them in the cooler, and enter them in the log.

  8. Linda Henderson says:

    My first job was working in a restaurant running the cash register.

  9. Cathy in AK says:

    First job: Inventory clerk for a wholesale autoglass dealer.

    Oddest job: Counting and sorting benthic amphipod species for a grey whale study. Which, I now realize, was very much like inventory : )

  10. Chele Blades says:

    My first job was in a lil italian eatery in a small illinois town called Lil Joes…the couple who owned it seemed to have just jumped shipped and started making food boy was it delicious. Pizza to die for but money they paid for me to waitress not so great…being a small town tips were not so great either…

  11. Shawn Kupfer says:

    First job was detassling corn (which is as boring as you’d imagine). Oddest. . . still looking for that one. Mine have all been pretty milquetoast, I guess. :)

  12. Shannon McKelden says:

    My first job was in our family-run children’s shoe store…addressing and sorting thousands and thousands of postcards to send to customers telling them of the back to school sale or the Salt Water sandal sales. Monotony at its finest, but it paid GREAT for a 14-year-old!

    So excited for Undeniably Yours! I loved Exclusively Yours!


  13. The first work I was ever paid for was selling Christmas trees. My dad and brother grew them as a sideline and holiday money-raiser when I was in high school, and I was part of the sales staff. My chief skill was convincing people of the real height of a tree. Someone would be admiring a 10-footer, and I’d ask how high their ceilings were. They’d say 8 feet. When I told them the tree was 10′, they wouldn’t believe me until I’d stand next to it and say, “I’m 5’6″. See how it’s almost twice my size?”

    My first official job was as a Hardee’s cashier. I didn’t eat French fries for three years because I got so sick of coming home with the smell in my hair.

  14. library addict says:

    My first job was part of the summer hire program at RAF Lakenheath in England. Most of the high school kids worked in the program for well under minimum wage at the time. I worked at the base’s accounting and finance office and was lucky enough to work there all three summers I was eligible. We had to take an oath at the beginning of the summer which always made me laugh on the inside.

  15. Margaret says:

    My first job was at the counter at the local Mr. Quick Hamburgers. My uniform was very attractive – brown and orange double-knit ployester.

  16. Marta Shul says:

    In high school I had to help around the office in the Majdanek Concentration Camp (a museum and the memorial these days) in Lublin, Poland. It was the freakiest experience for an impressionable sensitive innocent young girl. Will never forget it.

  17. Carlie A. says:

    First job, a grocery store cashier. Boring!

    Oddest job, hmmm…I think plant water girl. And mind you–I have the most “anti” green thumb on the planet. The poor plants don’t stand a chance around me.

  18. First job: picking windfall apples when I was 11. I lasted one freezing cold morning before I went home in tears…

  19. Lucy says:

    My first job was delivering the newspaper when I was 13. Once week. Most of the time I liked it, but when it rained or when it was cold I hated it. I did it for about 2 years.

  20. Betsy Knapp says:

    My first job was working for the only doctor in my hometown (population at that time, 700 people). My instructions were to keep the office clean. The doctor had hundreds and hundreds of pill boxes on shelves. I spent a whole afternoon dusting them. The doctor gave me a long lecture about contamination and then fired me. He didn’t stay in our town very long.

  21. Shannon_Stacey says:

    I’m having the best time reading about your jobs! Morgues and poultry plants and Shakespeare in Alabama, oh my!

    You guys are great sports to share!

    And, library addict, we were stationed at RAF Upper Heyford when I was a kid. My little brother was actually born in England. We never made the trip to Lakenheath, although my stepfather had been stationed there before he met my mom. I wish I’d been older (6-9) but I still remember how awesome it was there.

  22. Rory Phillips says:

    My first job was shelving books in the public library in a small town that could have doubled as Peyton Place. One day I went into the magazine archive room and encountered the chief of police and one of the high school teachers in a clinch. Both were married to other people. I don’t know which one of the three of us was the most surprised. I just said “Excuse me” and headed for the door.

  23. E.D. Walker says:

    My first job I worked at Universal Studios Hollywood in a candy/souvenir shop. Every year when we did inventory me and one other guy had to pull all the candy off the shelves and weigh it. He figured out one year that we had shifted over a ton of candy in less than four hours. My arms ache just remembering it!

  24. Angela says:

    My first job was an Unit Leader at a Girl Scout Camp. Camp Conshatwaba. My troop was late for flag ceremony every morning and we considered bug spray to be our sweet-smelling perfume. Not to mention that we literally fought over who was going to greet the UPS man every day! Awwwww, memories!

  25. I’d choose Undeniably Yours, too, because I already have Exclusively Yours and LOVED it!!!

    My first job was as a dishwasher in a small town supper club in NE Wisconsin. I was 13 and at 14 I happily graduated to waitress.

  26. “Small town, working-class people are my people. I know how they think. How they talk.” Yep, me too.

    I loved Exclusively Yours. It was great to meet the very real Kowalski family.

    My first job during weekends and college holidays was working behind the candy counter. Sell some, eat some, sell some, eat some more. Luckily for my office chair, I didn’t stay there too long. :)

  27. Oops! I was supposed to draw a winner this morning. I’m so sorry!

    We have a family wedding tomorrow and I’m very discombobulated. I haven’t seen my make-up bag since June and I’m pretty sure my right dress shoe ran away.

    Anyway, picked the winning comment # and it’s…


    Leona, if you email me (shannonstacey at gmail dot com) and tell me which book you’d like (Exclusively Yours or Undeniably Yours) and in which format (ePub, PDF or prc), I’ll get that out to you!

    And thank you all for the good wishes and to those who let me know you’ve enjoyed the Kowalski family!

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