Thursday, April 3, 2014
Death with all the Trimmings @LucyBurdette
As you guys know, I write mystery series. When I start the first book, there is much that I don't know about the setting and the characters and the sidekicks--and of course, the plot! A lot evolves over time.
In the past, I've put many of my characters into psychotherapy--and their lives have definitely improved:). But my Key West food critic character, Hayley Snow, did not want to go. She doesn't mind consulting her psychologist friend or her mother for advice, but when she's really worried, she goes to Lorenzo, the tarot card reader.
I had seen a tarot card reader at the Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square--in fact I got my cards read from him. But I wrote AN APPETITE FOR MURDER without meeting the reader as a real person. Here was the first iteration of Lorenzo in Appetite:
After leaving the bar, I drove my scooter the length of Whitehead Street toward Mallory Square to see if Lorenzo was working. Every night at sunset, except in the very worst weather, street performers marked off sections of the pier and set up shop to entertain tourists and part them from a few of their dollars. Along with the zaniness of Duval Street, the spectacle of the sun setting over Mallory Square tended to stick in the minds of visitors more than anything about Key West.
Lorenzo has been working the square for almost twenty years, wearing a star-studded turban, a deep blue cloak with a matching blue stone glued to his forehead, and a mustache waxed into loops. Sounded hokey, but even I felt more confident having my cards read by a guy who took the time to look and act professional.
But since then I've had lunch with Lorenzo (whose real name is Ron) a couple of times and gotten a better understanding of who he is and what he does. He has evolved in real life too--he no longer wears the turban and the make-up, because the tourists were treating him as a sideshow, not a serious person.
I was nearing the end of book 5, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, when I realized I needed help with Lorenzo's scene. He agreed to meet me for lunch and we had a wonderfully interesting talk about tarot and Key West and life. "I'm so glad I caught you," I said. "Without your input, I'd have no idea what to write."
"But you do know," he said. "You know."
And do you know what? When I returned to the scene I'd written, I found he was right. I put in a few telling details, but otherwise, this is how it goes:
Ten minutes later, Lorenzo took the seat beside me, carrying a cup of tea and a slice of pie. His dark hair curled like mine in the humidity, and he wore Harry Potter-style round glasses, and red clogs. I felt instantly calmer in his presence.
“I was hoping you weren’t on a diet,” I said, pointing at his plate.
“The cards say never pass up key lime pie,” he told me as he swallowed the first creamy bite and rolled his eyes with pleasure.
We chatted for a few minutes about the politics of the street performers at Mallory Square and their difficult negotiations with the city about a new lease. I wasn’t the only person struggling with a crazy workplace.
“I got worried this week when we cruised through Sunset at Mallory Square with Mom’s guests and you weren’t there. There was another tarot card reader where you usually sit,” I said, lifting my eyebrows. “Is she your new competition?”
“It all depends,” he said. “Do you want a performance? Or a reading?” He placed his deck of cards on the little table between us.
“A reading. Definitely. No drama.” I began to shuffle the cards. “I’ve got enough of that in my own life.”
He smiled warmly and dealt out three cards, and then shook his head.
“There’s change ahead. Upheaval. You may feel trapped by feelings and emotions that no longer serve your current purpose,” he said. “You may feel that you're out of control, but this will help you evaluate the ways you felt trapped. Don't let yourself remain in the position of refusing to see the truth.”
There were so many ways I was feeling stuck and out of control--my job, my love life, just to mention two. Lorenzo paused, still studying the cards. But it seemed as though they had given him all they had to say. And I needed to do some serious thinking, alone.
“How are you otherwise than the Mallory Square business?” I asked Lorenzo.
“I'm good,” he said. “I'm busy. I'm feeling calm and centered.”
“I'm glad someone is,” I said.
“Just remember, there are two worlds--a world of love and a world of fear. You choose where you want to live, okay?”
So on Monday, I sent in the draft of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS (Key West mystery #5) to my editor in New York. (YAY!) Who knows how many changes she will want, and who knows whether it's great or whether it stinks...but in the meanwhile, I think I'll take Lorenzo's advice--live in the world of love, not fear. (The book will be out in December, just in time for Christmas stockings.)
For readers (and writers), how important is it to see series characters change?