Director Michael Haneke is interviewed in the current issue of Paris Review. This is what he said when asked whether drawing on your own experience and background is good or necessary:
"I’ve never seen good results from people trying to speak about things they don’t know firsthand. They will talk about Afghanistan, about children in Africa, but in the end they only know what they’ve seen on TV or read in the newspaper. And yet they pretend—even to themselves—that they know what they’re saying. But that’s bullshit. I’m quite convinced that I don’t know anything except for what is going on around me, what I can see and perceive every day, and what I have experienced in my life so far. These are the only things I can rely on. Anything else is merely the pretense of knowledge with no depth. Of course, I don’t just write about things precisely as they have happened to me—some have and some haven’t. But at least I try to invent stories with which I can personally identify.
My students, meanwhile, pitch only the gravest of topics. For them it’s always got to be the Holocaust. I usually tell them, Back off. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You can only reproduce what you read or heard elsewhere. Others who actually lived through it have said it much better than you ever could. Try to create something that springs organically from your own experience. For only then does it stand the slightest chance of being genuinely interesting."
Of course (in my opinion) that doesn't mean you can't wrap your own experience in a genre story. The YA novel I've been working on is called Reptile Nation and in it a segment of the population turns into reptile people. I must admit not only have I never been a Reptile Person, I haven't even met any. However, the book really is about the friendship between the two main characters, and that's a theme I (and everybody else) can relate to.