I don't advise writers to put their friends and relatives in their fiction, and I certainly never set out to do so myself. In fact, I often try to write about the kind of people I don't know very well to try to figure out what makes them tick.
That's what I did with Camilla. I read a newspaper article about a debutante who seemed shallow and unsympathetic, but I knew there had to be more to her than the reporter was letting on, so I wrote a kind of "rebuttal" to his interview and what appeared on the page was Camilla Randall--naive, over-polite, and over-privileged, but a person who always wants to do what's right. I talk about this in my post "Why Camilla Randall?"
I imagined her looking like Clara Peller, the actress in the famous "Where's the Beef" ad from the 1980s.
But Violet Rushforth took on a life of her own as soon as she walked into the story. It was only after the first couple of scenes that I realized she had become my mother's "Cousin Jean" Birch--actually my grandmother's first cousin. Jean was girlishly charming, garrulous, and fierce as a mother bear. A force of nature.
Jean sent every child in the family a card on our birthdays and Christmas. She never missed. Even when she was well into her eighties. She had lots of crazy ideas, but nobody could argue with her. She'd just talk right over your objections until you realized it was best to just relax and enjoy the ride.
|The Hotel del Coronado, where the fictional Violet has her 85th birthday party|
Because Jean was living in a Medicaid assisted living facility at the time, she couldn't keep the money. So she gave herself the world's biggest birthday party for her 85th birthday. She rented the posh Montecito Country Club in Santa Barbara, and paid to fly in relatives from all over the world. It's the only time I ever got to meet most of the relatives from that part of the family. So Violet Rushforth's unlikely 85th birthday party at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego became the scene of the climax of The Best Revenge. Violet appears to be completely dotty when Camilla meets her, but she's crazy like a fox, and turns out to be smarter than anybody realized.
At the same time, Camilla discovers that she herself is smarter and tougher than anybody realized, and she gets a lot of her confidence-boosting from Violet, whose unwavering optimism keeps Camilla going, even when she's in jail accused of murder.
Have you ever written a story where a real person walked into your fictional world? Have you read any books where you suspect the characters are based on real people?
SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM is now in paperback! The paper version is available at Amazon, Amazon UK , and Barnes and Noble
And in honor of its hard copy debut, the ebook is only 99c until the end of February. The ebook is on sale at all the Amazons.
This comic novel—which takes its title from the most famous Shakespearean quote that Shakespeare never wrote—explores how easy it is to perpetrate a character assassination whether by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls. It's a laugh-out-loud mashup of romantic comedy, crime fiction, and satire: Dorothy Parker meets Dorothy L. Sayers.