This week’s blog challenge is called character inspiration. Sophia Valentine of Lifestyle and Literature created this challenge (see graphic for topics and dates if you have a blog and would like to participate. If you’re a reader, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the posts from the great participating authors).
The characters I feature in my books are fictionalized composites of people I know or have known. The main character usually shares some of my personality or background. For instance, in “A Stone’s Throw,” Alicia Fairmont is a librarian like I am. Although my husband is still alive, thank God, Alicia is a widow. Her marriage was quite different from mine, as her husband kept his past secret. When she searches for his family that she has never met, she ends up meeting and falling in love with John McKinney, the publisher of a small town newspaper. John’s character is mostly imaginary. His occupation and interest in journalism and novel writing is another aspect of my personal experience. I worked as Features editor on my college newspaper and also edited and published my library school newsletter before writing articles, short stories and novels.
John’s father, 80-year old Mac, is another central character in my book. He is a librarian and previous library director at the Cobble Cove Library in upstate New York. One memorable characteristic of Mac is his love of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I worked part-time in the special collections department of my college library, I worked with an older gentleman who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day. I gave Mac this similar quirk and also his propensity for creative quotes. The tagline of the book, which comes from one of Mac’s sayings is, “Things happen for a reason.”
Sheila, the current library director and a close friend of Mac and John is not based on anyone I’ve worked for. She’s a complex character who is difficult to know initially. As the story unfolds, we learn her hard exterior was built after the tragic loss of her young husband to a brain aneurysm that left her to raise her daughter alone.
There are many other characters in the book including Alicia’s best friend, Abigail Nostran, known as Gilly, who worked with her part-time as a clerk at their library on Long Island. Gilly has three sons and is a very down-to-earth person who likes to wear sweatshirts and casual clothing. She loves to bake and, despite a messy divorce, is a positive person who enjoys talking about the opposite sex. I based Gilly on several women I’ve known throughout my life. I also had a friend at my library who worked as a clerk.
Dora, the innkeeper, who Alicia first meets when coming to Cobble Cove, shares some similarities with Gilly. She has never married and, during the course of the book, develops a love interest in someone. An older woman who runs a bed and breakfast in a small town, she’s a bit wary about new guests. As she gets to know Alicia, she becomes friendlier. Her interests also include baking as well as gardening and making the inn’s bath soaps and lotions.
Two other characters that play important roles in my book, although they aren’t human, are the library Siamese cat, Sneaky, and Mac and John’s golden retriever, Fido. The cat is based on my own Siamese cat, Oliver, who is older than Sneaky. The dog is also based on some dogs I grew up with and those I’ve read about in books.
The sequel to “A Stone’s Throw” will feature several new characters. Without giving the story away, some will be college-age and others children. I base the kids on my own daughter when she was the age of the characters. One young girl who plays a big role in the book, Angelina, suffers from leukemia. Her character is based on my niece who underwent a bone marrow transplant ten years ago at the age of 12 and is now completely recovered with a baby daughter.
The new book that I am currently writing with totally different characters, features themes of alcoholism. mental illness, and infertility. The main character, Sarah Lloyd, is a children’s book illustrator this time instead of a librarian. She is having problems conceiving which causes stress on her marriage. I have a familiarity with this topic because it took me many years and some fertility treatments to conceive my daughter. Sarah’s mother, Jennifer Brewster, is the alcoholic in the book. While my experience with this topic is limited, I used my knowledge of alcoholic characters I’ve read about and seen portrayed on television. Without revealing the plot or other characters because the book is only in a draft stage, I will say my characters are different from those of “A Stone’s Throw” and my first self-published novel, “Cloudy Rainbow,” although there are some similarities.
I believe most authors put some of themselves in their main characters as well as other aspects of their personalities in non-leading characters. I’ve also found that, once you name a character and begin to feature that person in your book, they start taking on characteristics and motivations that often surprise you.
In case the descriptions of my characters have interested you, you might consider joining my mailing list for updates on my books and monthly contests for prizes at https://debbiedelouise.wordpress.com (just complete the pop-up newsletter form and confirm through the email you are sent). The next newsletter will be out on June 1st where I’ll be announcing the June contest and awarding the May prize.