Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's my story and you'll cry if I want to

Dandy Gilver is a unenthusiastic wife, a half-hearted mother, upper-class, a city-lover, relies on sevants to do everything from cooking her meals to choosing her clothes.  I'm married to my best friend, don't have kids, working-class, country-bumpkin, grow some of my own food but cook all of it from scratch and am usually wearing something from at least a thrift store if not a dumpster.

And here's the kicker.  She loves dogs and I love cats.

Oh and she hasn't had the action-packed hair-colour past that I've been through either. 

Safe to say Dandy's not me.  But does my stand-alone character, Opal Jones, share my interests?

The whole of As She Left It takes place in a few pretty fraught weeks in Opal's life, with not much time for macrame and yoga.  And it's just occurred to me that I don't think she switches on a radio or telly or plays a single track of music in the entire book.  She does give up on Ikea as a source of furniture and goes to a charity shop instead, so with a bit of a stretch I suppose you could say we're both bargain-hunters.  Or mean anyway.

I was just talking to Laura Disilverio (click) about this at Left Coast Crime at the weekend; apparetly ballroom dancing is like dog vs cat as far as characters and authors go.  Laura has the hardest time persuading readers of her dancing mystery series (most recent Homicide Hustle) that she's - whisper - making it all up, and not fitting the writing in around travel to professional tournaments in the ballroom world or at least the daily grind of foxtrot lessons in her studio.

But then I have my troubles in separating writer and characters too.  My friend Jess Lourey (click)  writes the gripping yet hilarious murder-by-the-month series (most recently December Dread) and in my head the heroine, Mira, is Jessie, so much so that when Jessie talks about her dog, I feel bad that she's showing such favouritism and hardly mentioning her cat.  Her fictional cat.  Dammit, her protagonist's fictional cat!

The funniest example of a writer herself not being able to separate her interests from her characters is another friend of mine Cathy Cassidy, (click) a UK children's writer and a vegetarian of many years' standing.  Cathy just can't stand to write a meat-eating protagonist.  Her books are full of kids and adults from all walks of life in all sorts of extreme situations, all ordering mushrooms and chips in British chippies, or eating quorn sausages and quiche.  It's so much a moral issue for Cathy that she couldn't have a sympathetic character chomping into a chicken leg for the Pullitzer prize.

It makes me love her (and miss her) but it's a good thing she doesn't write mysteries; we'd all know in the first chapter whodunnit.  Him over there with the bacon cheeseburger.  Call the cops.


Lori Rader-Day said...

Love it. You'll be interested to know, though, that I have to keep reminding myself that Dandy doesn't *necessarily* have spiky blond hair.

Jessica Lourey said...

I started reading one of Craig Johnson's mysteries, and for sure Walt Longmire is HIM.

I wonder, is it a lie every author but me tells when people ask if we're actually our protagonist? Something to buy us emotional distance from how self-revealing writing fiction really is?

Also, I miss you.

Reece said...

I was about to express my surprise and consternation that you are a cat lover. But then I saw that photo of the little black kitties and -- okay -- I get it.

Catriona McPherson said...

Oh Jessie. Five weeks til Malice. With ten weeks work in them. It'll fly by.I was reading Craig J on the flight home too - and laughed out loud and p-ed off the woman next to me who was reading a 900 page dragon and unicorn tome. Huh. Just cos *you're* reading witless bombastic slop *I'm* not allowed to laugh????

Catriona McPherson said...

Reese. I don't want to start something but, even though dogs and cats are both great, kittens *own* puppies.

Catriona McPherson said...

Reece, I mean.

Reece said...

It's okay, Catriona. I blame Reese Witherspoon. By the way, I think the web traffic for our site would skyrocket if we let loose with this whole puppies vs. kittens throwdown that's brewing here.