Monday, March 14, 2016

Did you base any characters in your books on friends or family?"

- from Susan

1.     Absolutely not.

2.     Yes, of course.

3.     This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All of the above are true for me in different books and for different characters. Real people morph into characters who live (or die) only on the page. Invented characters take on the eyes, lips, voices of people I know the deeper I dig into the story. Real people I never want to see again in the flesh provide the irritating personalities I need to telegraph villains and their enablers. People I love smile and insinuate their most endearing traits into characters I want my readers to like. All this is perfectly normal and not legally actionable.

It won’t come out until 2017, but the first book in my new series is about an American couple plopped down in a tiny French town with nothing but their artistic talents, their good will, and a couple of unruly dogs to serve as introduction to their new neighbors. That situation is based closely on the lives of my dear friends Alice and David, who were delighted to be the inspirations for Love and Death in Burgundy.

 The real "Katherine," who is actually Alice.

Katherine, the protagonist, is based on Alice, an artist, a woman of a certain age who faces life with a mixture of high optimism and internal fretting. Alice is an artist, she does sally forth into the world with her chin held high, her desire for friendship intense, and her charmingly eccentric style as her calling card. From there, Katherine and Alice part company, however. Katherine keeps injecting herself into other people’s business, competing for popularity, creating a shaky tower of relationships that is too vulnerable to survive a stiff breeze, never mind a mysterious death.

Alice has read the book, loves it, relishes finding bits and pieces of her, her husband, and their lives inside the fictional story. She has blessed what is, for me, the closest I’ve come to using a real person in a novel. Maybe she approves because she lives her life in some measure as if it were a novel, which I mean in the most complimentary way. My story is an homage to Alice and David, who built a fairy tale life with little more than style and courage, and open hearts toward their adopted home.


RJ Harlick said...


Art Taylor said...

What a nice story! —and such a good response to open up this week's question.
I can imagine it would be dangerous for some writers to admit to having based characters on real people, even loosely, so it's nice to have a situation like this where it works out so well. :-)

Susan C Shea said...

Of course, she might not have been so gracious had I made her a villain. But then it wouldn't have been based on her, would it?
Glad you liked the story, Robin and Art.