Author relies on own life for her novel

Lauren Sharman's book is set in Baltimore area in the '80s

August 13, 2006|By DAVID P. GREISMAN | DAVID P. GREISMAN,SUN REPORTER

The piece of broken glass Nikki stepped on was just a portent of what would happen on her 16th birthday. Her life, too, became shattered and painful, as Nikki's parents went from abusing their daughter to abandoning her.

Nikki is the protagonist of Growing Up Little, the first novel by Lauren Sharman. Although her story unfolds in a work of fiction sprinkled with romance, the book is also grounded in reality.

The action takes place in the Baltimore area in the 1980s, and the main characters were loosely molded from the personalities and experiences of the author and her husband.

"A lot of romance novels are based on these men who are rich and women who are a perfect size two," said Sharman, 34, of Woodbine. "Even though I write fiction, I try to make characters that the average person can identify with."

Growing Up Little is published by Whiskey Creek Press, a small publisher that specializes in e-books and prints paperback versions of some titles as demand dictates.

Since its May release, Growing Up Little has caught on with a select audience, including dozens of women who work out at the same Mount Airy athletic club as Sharman.

Sharman's novel was the first choice for the newly formed book club at Curves, which will meet after hours beginning next month.

"Everyone in Curves bought her book once word got around how good it was," said Carrie Schappell, a fitness trainer at the gym. "It was an interesting and kind of fun book to read, plus she said parts of it were autobiographical, which of course made us curious."

In Growing Up Little, Nikki is protected by her older brother and de facto guardian, Jake, and his best friend, Charlie, who keep her by their sides and try to teach her to be independent.

"My heroines are all strong, too, but every once in a while they need that big, strong overprotective guy by their side," Sharman said.

Jake, Charlie and the male heroes in Sharman's forthcoming trilogy were based on her husband, Joey. Jake, like Joey, is 6 feet 6 inches tall, has long hair and wears blue jeans and sleeveless shirts.

"I always start out by using a lot of his qualities," Sharman said. "Sometimes I'll go back and I'll change his appearance, his eye color, his hair color. I tend to put a little of him into each hero that I create."

Some of her plots were also inspired by Joey and his exploits, Sharman said. The novels are based in settings like Baltimore, Hagerstown and Glen Burnie, and Growing Up Little has a bar based on the old Baltimore club Hammerjacks in its 1980s form and location .

"He [Joey Sharman] was a little into different things than I was," she said. "He would tell me stories. When I wrote Growing Up Little, the story came to me faster than I could type."

After eight weeks of writing - occasionally during daytime but mostly while Joey, stepson Tanner, 13, and daughter Chloe, 6, were asleep - Sharman had 457 pages and a need to edit her story for prospective agents' eyes.

Sharman has also written a short story, the first two parts of a trilogy and 200 pages of the final part.

Growing Up Little is available for purchase at whiskeycreekpress.com. Prices are $5.99 for an HTML or PDF e-book and $12.95 for a paperback.

david.greisman@baltsun.com

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