The course of PTA meetings never has run smoothly, but when Tarver's unpopular principal turns up dead, Beth realizes that making bake sales wheat-free and funding class trips weren't the only things on the agenda. Then the local gossip blogs, WisconSINS, starts fanning the flames of speculation, and it seems like everyone is a suspect---especially certain members of the PTA.
****Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden
HANK: Here at JRW, we love debut authors! (okay, we also love veteran authors, and mid-listers, and bestsellers..) But theres nothing like opening a box of your first books! And todays debutante is LAura ALden (who you may already know, but we're not telling unless she wants to) --a true stalwart and a hardworker and a devoted mystery fan.
But as a debut author, she's now experienced a few moments that all mystery authors share. (Have you? She'll ask in a minute.) Here's one of them.
LAURA ALDEN: Back a few Christmases ago, my in-laws gave me a tee-shirt that read; “Careful, or you'll end up in my novel.”
When I opened it, everyone laughed and made the standard jokes. “Hey, you’re not going to kill me off, are you?” “Hope you don’t put me into one of your books.”
I smiled and made the obligatory response: “Then you’d better be nice to me.”
But honestly, even if I wanted to put a real person into a book, I doubt that I could. Difficult as my made-up characters can be, the degree of difficulty of getting them to do what I want is no comparison to how hard it would be to get real people to do my bidding.
For instance? Well, if I based a character on, say, an old boss, I’d be locked into that personality. He’d still do all those things that irritated me when I worked for him, and I still wouldn’t get a raise.
After all, why would he co-operate as one of my characters when he wasn’t cooperative in real life?
If I based a character on a good friend, that character would walk like her, talk like her, have her interests and her skills. Fitting a known quantity into a rough first draft would, for me, be like slipping a honed college athlete into a pickup basketball game. She wouldn’t fit and it’d be hard to smooth out the edges.
And then there’s the naming thing. If I turned that guy from Fifth grade who called me Four Eyes into a suspect, how can I possibly give him a different name? He’d still be the kid who called me Four Eyes, no matter what.
If I need a name for a character I look through the trusty 3” x 5”
spiral-bound memo pad I carry with me. One of the things I write down is names, first and last, male and female.
If the memo pad fails me, I’ll give my husband a yell.
Let’s try one right now: “Honey, I need a name for a forty-five year old man who’s been living over his Mom’s garage for twenty years.”
“...Erik. With a K.”
But then where do my characters come from, if not from real life?
Well, they do come from real life. Of course they do. They just don’t, um, carry over directly. Let’s take my main character’s best friend, Marina. My sister-in-law thinks Marina is based on her. My oldest friend, I suspect, thinks she’s Marina. The truth? Marina is both of them and neither of them. She comes from all the friends I’ve ever had and all the friends I’ve always wanted to have, plus she’s a little bit of me.
The same is true with all my characters -- they’re me and not me.
They’re everyone and no one. They come out of my pointed little head and even I don’t know their origins.
So rest easy, dear father-in-law. Don’t worry, brothers and sisters- in-law. There is no way I’ll ever transfer your personality onto that of one of my characters.
Not that you’ll recognize, anyway.
(Heh heh heh.)
How about anyone else? How do you deal with the assumption that you’re sticking real people into your books? Do you put real people in your books?
Laura Alden lives in northern Michigan with her husband and two very strange cats. When she’s not writing her next book, she’s working at her day job, taking pictures for the local newspaper, reading, or doing some variety of skiing. She’s fond of long soaks in the tub, red raspberries, and blue skies. Her first mystery, MURDER AT THE PTA, was released in October and is the first in a new series.