by Tracy Kiely
I’ve created two characters – well, on paper, anyway. Don’t get me started about what my husband refers to as my “phone voice” or how my kids say I act when I get around childhood friends (spoiler alert: neither are very flattering).
The first, Elizabeth Parker of my Jane Austen inspired mysteries, is a lot like me. We both grew up in Northern Virginia, attended Catholic women’s college, and along the way, dated and worked for several idiots (although we never dated someone we worked for). Our families are packed full of colorful characters, and we have a healthy admiration for Jane Austen, biting sarcasm, and Cary Grant.
My latest fictional creation, Nicole Martini (“Nic” to her friends, of whom she has many*) however, is very different. Nic and her dashing husband, Nigel Martini, are a modern-day version of Nick and Nora Charles, the wealthy, sophisticated darlings of Dashiell Hammett’ s The Thin Man. Their first adventure Murder with a Twist came out in May. Killer Cocktail is slated for next year. I admire my Nic greatly. Which is to say we have very little in common.
Here are just a few examples:
*Nic is an ex-detective with the New York Police Department. She worked Homicide for six years until a gunshot wound to the leg landed her in a desk job. She and the desk didn’t suit so she retired. The injury still bothers her from time-to-time.
*While I have been to New York, I have never been shot in the leg (or anywhere else for that matter). However, I did do a cartwheel in our backyard last month to (a) see if I could still do one and (b) to show my fifteen-year-old daughter that I was actually capable of such gymnastic feats. I ended up pulling my hamstring (which sounds way too polite of a term for the god-awful ripping sensation that shot up the back of my leg). Like Nic, the injury still bothers me. As in I howl like a teething baby in a wet diaper when I try and touch my toes.
*Nic is self-assured and quick on her feet. She’s used to dealing with thugs and criminals and is adept at taking control of a potentially dangerous situation.
*I have been known to let rude store clerks get under my skin. (“What did I ever do to them? I was being perfectly polite!” I’ve been known to wail/ask.) I am not quick on my feet (see above).
* Nic and her husband are fabulously wealthy. They own a bullmastiff named Skippy. In their downtime they engage in witty banter over cocktails.
*My husband and I have a kid in college who literally said to me yesterday that his speeding ticket was “only $90.” We have two golden retrievers, Cormac and Finbar, who produce enough hair each day to create six new puppies. My husband and I do engage in witty banter, but it’s usually limited to how to smack some sense into the aforementioned college kid, and it’s usually over morning coffee. College kids sleep in late.
*Nic solves crimes. Specifically, she solves murders. She stays calm, focused, gets the job done, and has a martini or two while she does it.
* I were to stumble across a body, I would immediately call the police, offer what I knew, and then step the hell out of the way and let the professionals do their jobs. I would also most likely howl like I had two pulled hamstrings. I hate martinis but I might be cajoled into having a chardonnay. (If “cajoled” means grabbing the whole bottle and crawling into a corner while I dealt with the shock of seeing a dead body!)
*Line completely stolen from the movie High Society. Conversation between Tracy Lord and Mike Macaulay:
(Grace Kelly):“And what's the Macaulay for?”
(Frank Sinatra): “My father taught English history. My friends call me Mike.”
(Grace Kelly): “Of whom you have many, I'm sure.”