During my 25 yeas as a Houston psychotherapist, I saw from 40 to 60 people a week, which means I heard at least 60,000 hours of secrets. Now that I’m writing mystery novels, people often ask me if I get any of my story ideas from the secrets I once heard. I’m always shocked when I’m asked that, because the very idea is repugnant to me.
Things I’ve heard from people who were not clients, however, are a different matter, especially clever use of words or phrases. In restaurants or theaters or shopping malls or any place else, I soak up overheard sentences like a dry sponge, and I will use them shamelessly. In one case, I even used something I once heard another therapist’s client say. My door was open, my colleague’s door was open, and as his client left, she uttered words that I put in Tanisha’s mouth in Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter. They had to do with a part of her anatomy she had invited somebody to kiss and the instructions she had given him for doing it, and I used them verbatim. If she has read the book, or if my former colleague has read the book, they’ll both recognize them immediately. I hope they’ll both take them as my admiration for her cleverness.
If you happen to have been one of the Houstonians who came to me for psychotherapy, please be assured that you will never see yourself or your secrets in any novel I write. In the first place, a lot of those secrets have long since been forgotten. The ones I remember are inviolate. I hold them as a sacred trust.