Monday, April 25, 2011

You Or Someone Like You

When I meet people for the first time -- people who have read my books but have little knowledge of who I am -- I sometimes have the sense that I have disappointed them. And I’m glad about that. I’m perhaps not as tall as they’ve expected. Or quite as gamine. I’m a better cook than any of my characters. My interests and what’s important to me? Those things are different.

When people read books they enjoy and that live and breathe for them, they sometimes have an expectation that you will be your books. And it’s true: I’ve known a few authors who, if the series they write were to be discontinued for some reason, would never write another word. They’re writing themselves or some enhanced version of their lives and the things they know.

As is the case with many authors who were journalists first, that isn’t the case for me. I mean, very few women I’ve met wouldn’t like to be Madeline Carter and I’m certainly no exception. She is tall -- way tall: close to six feet -- and blonde and though she denies it, she is beautiful. She’s smart and caring and though she’s flawed, she’s flawed in beautiful ways: ways that I and her readers find endearing.

While Madeline gets tangled up in mysteries in contemporary Los Angeles, Kitty Pangborn’s world is 1931 Los Angeles, near the end of Prohibition and the beginning of the Depression. She couldn’t be more different from Madeline. Of average height and build and looks, she is also very young: younger than either Madeline or me. And she’s a redhead, though I honestly no longer remember if it was I who made that choice or the illustrater who did the cover of the first Pangborn novel, Death Was the Other Woman. In any case, Kitty is young and green and inexperienced. And me? I am none of those things.

All of that said, there is some of me in both of those characters; of course there is. Just as there is some of me in the nasty bad guys and the secondary and even the tertiary characters. If you look at things a certain way, there’s some of me in all of the people who people my books. There has to be. No matter how disconnected from my characters I sometimes feel -- how independent they seem to me to be -- everything they know about the world and about how to be human, they’ve learned from me.

When you bring your experiences and understanding of the world to your reading then -- together -- we’ve something that’s all our own.

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