I had finished one of the drafts of What You Don’t Know Now and given it to Cindy, one of my Early Readers. One of her questions in feedback gave me a lot to think about.
“Are you Bridey?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “But to tell you the truth, I’m a part of all the characters.”
Bridey, her mother Tilla, her Aunt Corinne, her cousins Sara and little Francesca. Her Aunt Maura. And yes — the male characters: Alessandro, Father Clement, Hugh, Riordan, and 5-year-old Ian. I speak for all of them and they speak through me.
I love these characters.
I think you can love or hate the characters you create in fiction. Or love or hate pieces of them. And yes, I think you can have favorites.
Years ago, I read The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard and fell in love with this first of four books about the extended Cazelet family. We meet the characters in the summer of 1937 as they summer at their parents’ home in Sussex, England. The war looms ahead, but what I loved most was the way her child characters (four, I think) were written. And that inspired me to want to write my own child characters in this story.
I do love little Ian, bold and imaginative, looking for a father figure, all boy and too confident for his own good.
I love Alessandro for his pure heart and passion for his music and for his “Miss America,” Bridey. I loved writing in his voice.
But I also love challenging, arrogant, conflicted Riordan, I love his maleness and sexuality. I loved making him obnoxious and confusing to Bridey. And I love his heroic spirit and his gentleness with Bridey when she needed it most.
I love Sara. She’s smart, perceptive, funny, observant, and longs to be included. I love her shyness and loyalty to Bridey. I love that she writes her experiences and observations in her “log” but we never know what they are.
And I love poor, fearful, tiger-mother Tilla. I love her willingness to go out of her comfort zone just far enough to allow Bridey to get to Europe. I love her struggle to let go of her beloved daughter. I love how much she loves her husband at home in the States. I’m sorry I had to give her so much pain.
Are they my favorites? Maybe. My big hope is that in reading this book, readers will find their favorites, too.
And then tell me who they are. And why.