Wednesday, March 30, 2011

“That’s My Crazy Ex-Husband, Isn’t It?”

It doesn’t give away any plot points for me to tell you that the major bad guy in Mad Money is a corporate psychopath. When I was writing the book, I did a lot of research on this incredible phenomena. It made for some interesting, scary reading because, for various reasons, corporate psychopaths are talked about much less than your average, garden variety psycho. (Go figure.)

When the book first came out, all of my girlfriends read it, of course. It was my first novel, after all, so a clump of them got copies and started to read. And then I started getting calls and e-mail.

“Say, Linda,” said one. Let’s say her name was Jane. “I totally recognized Frank in that bad guy character.”

“What?” said I.

“You know: Frank. My ex-husband. How could you forget his name?”

“I did not forget his name, Jane. I did not forget Frank at all. But that character in the book -- Ernest Carmichael Billings? -- was entirely not based on Frank.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m very sure. I made him entirely up. He’s not even my crazy ex-husband. And he certainly isn’t yours. I created him out of the research I did: gave him the qualities I needed for it to be scientifically accurate and work with my plot.”

One by one they called: almost every one of my closest friends. And all absolutely certain that the baddest bad guy in my first novel was based on one of their ex-significant relationships. That maybe I’d been watching closely and taking notes.

I found this interesting on a bunch of levels. First, of course, it’s funny, right? That all of these women figured I’d cheerfully apprehended their ex’s worst qualities and finally put a name to something they’d suspected all along. In another way, I felt flattered because it told me that I had captured something very human in that bad guy. He wasn’t just an empty caricature of evil, which had been my greatest fear. He embodied space in a way that was significant enough that people thought they recognized him when they read the book which, after all, is what every author is aiming at when she sits down to write.

If, when you read the book, the character of Ernie reminds you of someone close to you (or who used to be) let me know. I’d love to hear about it, even though I’m pretty sure you’re incorrect.

Meanwhile, if you want to order the new e-book version, you can do so here or here.

3 comments:

Laura K. Curtis said...

Here's the sad truth: if you base a character's characteristics (rather than their circumstances) on a real person, that real person will NEVER recognize himself or herself. If, however, you make someone up out of whole cloth, people will insist you're either insulting or complimenting them!

It does crack me up, though, that your friends all think *your* bad guy is *their* bad guy!

Linda L. Richards said...

I know, right? The truth is, we all see ourselves so differently than other people do. A little scary, right?

Staci said...

Awesome post, Linda. I'm a bit disappointed, though. Based on the subject, I was hoping to read about your ex-husband. I thought we were getting inside dirt!