As I did a few weeks ago, I thought I’d continue this series which was inspired by a fellow writer’s blog whereby he wrote a post about people who have inspired his characters along the way. I loved reading his insights and what informed his writing, so I’m going to continue doing so with people who have inspired some of my own characters in my novels.
Again, I’ll pick three, one from each book.
MICHAEL CONTELLI from BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE
When I was little and my grandmother and grandfather (Nanny and Poppy) lived in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, on Myrtle Avenue, I would regularly visit. We didn’t move from New Jersey to Maryland until I was five, and I played with my grandmother’s next-door-neighbor’s child, named Michael, quite often. We would ride our trikes on the driveway and were little playmates.
When my grandmother passed away years later when I was in my mid-twenties and we were at her viewing, a lovely family came up to my mother to pay their respects. When I asked who they were, my mother told me they were Nanny’s neighbors, and that I used to play with their son, Michael. I asked them to show me a picture of grown-up Michael, and they did. He was big and muscular–a grown man now.
As I drove home from the funeral, I was stressing because I had to write a short story for the graduate class I was taking with Dr. Friedman at Towson University. The idea of a short story popped into my head as I thought about Michael and our days together as five-year-old kids. At the time, it begged the question: What would happen if you grew up next door to the person you fell in love with? And what if it didn’t work out?
The resulting short story is called Contelli’s Mimosa (Contelli was not Michael’s last name, I just pulled that one out of the air), and the story caused Dr. Friedman to tell me, as he handed back the story with a grade on it, that I might have a novel somewhere within the pages of that short story and that he hoped that someday I would write it. I trusted this professor more than any other, and he happened to also teach a course called Writing the Novel, which I was never able to take. My loss.
It only took me twenty years and the prospect that I had to write a book as my final thesis for my Masters of Fine Arts Degree (MFA) at National University that pushed me to turn that short story into a novel. Beneath the Mimosa Tree was born, with little remaining of that original short story, as I blew it up and started fresh. Incidentally, that original short story will be featured in my upcoming collection of short stories and poetry coming this summer.
Furthermore, of all the leading men in my novels, Michael is most like my husband, Anthony.
JACK THOMPSON from BASEBALL GIRL
When you work in baseball for a while, you are surrounded by a lot of men, either in uniform or those who work in and around the sport. Jack Thompson’s character is that of a sports reporter with a bit of sadness to his storyline (I won’t tell you and spoil it).
I was friends with a lot of reporters when I worked at the Orioles, as it was part of my job to work with the media. Therefore, you come in contact with journalists on a regular basis. Jack, like many of my characters, is made up of characteristics of many people I know. And, if truth be told, in my younger days, I did go out a couple of times with someone who was a reporter and covered the Orioles, though no romance ever resulted from those interactions.
Therefore, Jack isn’t entirely based on that reporter, but more on what a relationship could be for Frankie with someone who was a really decent guy. That was most important to me overall; Jack had to be someone who had some commonalities with Frankie, which meant he had to be sharp, funny, vulnerable, and somewhat sentimental. I also didn’t want the romance to be only linked up with a ballplayer. I wanted readers to have someone grounded for Frankie, although many people have told me they wish there had been more with Joe Clarkson. 🙂
JOHN SALVIE from INN SIGNIFICANT
I know a couple of people who have served in the military and who have suffered from PTSD. One particular person even allowed me to pick his brain prior to writing Inn Significant to learn a little more about serving our country and being in the military.
John was a tough character to write (similar to Michael Contelli) because John had to be both macho and have his own thing to deal with as he fell madly in love with Milly. He is reserved and ridiculously patient, and I am neither of those two things in real life, so I had to find a way to write this male character who was believable. It’s not always easy writing the male lead because you want him to be realistic and so likable, and yet not be YOU at all.
John is based on a few people I have known over the years, however, his kindness was the one constant quality I wanted to hone in on with him. He may be fighting his own internal battle, but his love for Milly gives him strength and makes him that steady-Eddie she may just need.
That’s it for now.
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