How Much of a Novel is Real?
People often cast me a conspiratorial glance and say, “Your main character is really you, right?”
I still haven’t figured out how to answer that question. No, she’s definitely not me, and yet, yes, she is.
On the “no” side, I invent my characters. Emmy Adler, Blown Away’s heroine, is 28 years old, an artist, and a kite lover. You don’t need to know my age, but I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve seen 28. As for art, I can spend afternoons absorbed in exhibition catalogs, but my hands-on artistic efforts meet their end in the fireplace. And kites? In writing the kite shop mysteries, I talked with some talented kite makers and learned a lot about the surprisingly complex art and craft of kite design, but until I began the series, I hadn’t flown a kite in years.
On the “sure, it’s me” side, everything I write is filtered through my experience. Emmy Adler’s parents are old Portland hippies obsessed with whole grains, composting, and astrological charts. I live in Portland, I’m a conscientious composter, and within a stone’s throw of where I sit now I could easily shake out someone to tell me if Mercury’s in retrograde or how to cook millet. Emmy admires her friend Stella’s bohemian collection of vintage armchairs around a circular coffee table in front of the fireplace. Once I stayed at an escargot farm in the Loire Valley (for real!), and the owners had kitted out their living room the same way. Emmy has a bumper sticker reading “Bowl Naked” (she inherited her car from her parents). A good friend’s mom’s car used to have the same bumper sticker.
Other things are complete invention. Emmy’s dad belongs to a Watergate reinactment club. Is there really such a thing? I have no idea. I simply thought it was hilarious, and I wanted a reason for someone to say, “Follow the money.” Emmy’s mom belongs to a croning circle. Again, I’ve never seen a croning circle, but the idea cracks me up.
A writer’s food is life. We see the teenager too shy to raise her head, the toddler with the sassy attitude and the pink satin bomber jacket, the crafty grandmother always angling for a deal. It all goes into the hopper. And it eventually comes out in the characters we write.
So, are my characters me? I can’t really say, and I like it that way.
Have you ever played with writing a character? How much of the character was you, and how much did you invent?
ABOUT BLOWN AWAY
In the all-new Kite Shop Mystery series set in the beachside community of Rock Point, Oregon, kite shop owner Emmy Adler gets swept up in a murder investigation.
Emmy is finally living her dream. She’s moved to the coastal town of Rock Point, Oregon, and is starting a kite business. Strings Attached features her own unique designs, inspired by everything from Picasso to Matisse’s colorful cutouts. Her spirits are soaring sky-high the morning of the grand opening—until she stumbles upon a dead man washed up on the beach.
The body belongs to local chef Miles Logan, and the gash across his chest indicates he’s been murdered. The sheriff suspects Emmy’s best friend, Avery, who used to date the chef. Emmy is sure Avery would never hurt anyone, but her pal doesn’t have an alibi for the night of the murder. With Avery’s freedom and the fate of her kite shop up in the air, Emmy takes it upon herself to follow the string of clues and solve the murder before the real killer takes flight.