Sometimes, you just have to play favorites—and this is one of those times. Today we’re talking about which of our characters we most love to write. (Spoiler Alert: It’s not always who you think it’s going to be!)
Bet you thought I’d try to choose between the fab ladies of my May-December sleuth team. Well, I do love to write Summer and Dorothy, of course. But another character, Gladys Rumway, always tries to highjack my keyboard. She’s a close-talker who spits and a loud, gossipy know-it-all to boot. She’s also fiercely competitive–especially when it comes to solving murders. But the Battle-ax, as Summer calls her, does possess a certain je ne sais quoi. She’s funny, smart, (brutally) direct, and…maybe just a teensy bit vulnerable under those dizzyingly-patterned caftans (did I mention she’s Anna Wintour’s worst nightmare?). The truth: I made a snap judgment about someone like Gladys once–only to find out later I was dead wrong. So even though my sleuths and I sometimes feel like strangling Gladys with her own faux-Grace-Kelly scarf, we know she has our backs. And sometimes the Battle-ax is actually right.
This is a tough topic for me because I feel like I should say my protagonist, Maggie Crozat. While I do love writing Maggie, as the central character in Plantation Shudders, she gets tasked with doing the heavy lifting when it comes to story. So my favorite character to write is probably Grandmere. On the surface, Gran’ appears to be your classic Southern belle, but she’s sharp and totally self-aware. I can really have fun with her comebacks and character, but still use her to propel the story when necessary. Yet she doesn’t have to carry it, like Maggie does. There are actors who are perfectly happy playing second bananas for this very reason. When I wrote on Just Shoot Me, David Spade—whose snarky persona is a total act, he’s one of the nicest guys ever—would ask us not to build a story around him. He liked coming into a scene, landing some great jokes, and then moving on. And while Gran’ is hardly Dennis Finch, she’s fun to write for the same reason: she can be just plain fun!
For me, it would have to be Mrs. Abernathy, the Mother of the Bride in Terror in Taffeta. She came stomping onto the scene and I knew her immediately: what she sounded like, what she looked like, what she wore… She’s pushy, outspoken, and of course very demanding, and I find her hilarious. I never really got it when other writers said their characters told them something or that their characters decided to do something, seemingly against the writer’s will. But the things that pop out of Mrs. Abernathy’s mouth! Re-reading her scenes, she can literally make me laugh out loud. She’s like Susan Sullivan’s character on Castle, except with a brazen, I-don’t-give-a-fig-what-you-think attitude. I wish I could make her a recurring character, but I’m definitely going to make sure she shows up for one of the sequels—and I can’t wait for you to meet her!
Sienna is my main character’s BFF and my favorite character to write. I love how she says the first thing that comes to her mind. I love how she is trying to set a world record for only wearing red. I love how she reminds me of me! (Of course, all my characters remind me of me in some way.) Sienna is the part of me who’s absolutely obsessed with pop culture—who knows so much needless information about celebrities that it’s taking up valuable brain space that should be reserved for actual important stuff that I should remember. Sienna and I can instantly tell you Tom Cruise’s height (5’7!). Or how long Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats have been married (5 years!). Or the name of Beyonce’s last album (Trick question. It’s Beyonce!) But ask us the what’s 11 times 11 and we have to really, really think about it. (121! And yes, one of us had to use a calculator.)
I had to put my knowledge to use somewhere. Enter Sienna.