Wednesday, April 22, 2015

She’s Just like Me, Only Thinner…


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Fine,  fine, fine. I confess. Jane Ryland is a little...like me. (And Charlotte McNally even more so.) But hey. How many of us envision Susan when we're reading about Maggie Hope? I certainly do. Is Lucy not Haley? Of course. Go through the Reds books--and imagine our heroines. Is Rhys not Lady Georgie? (AND Molly? Sigh. How does that happen?)  I can't help but picture Debs as  Gemma,  You can't tell me she's not. Julia is one hundred percent Clare, and Hallie admits she's Deirdre. So fine. Okay. It's only logical that we plumb our own personalities for our main characters. But that's not the whole story, and that's what makes it interesting. 
So I'm thrilled to let my dear pal, the hilarious and droll Susan Boyer, explain it all. (Try to read with a southern accent. It's more realistic that way.)

She’s Just like Me, Only Thinner…

Y’all, I’m so excited! This is launch week for Lowcountry Boneyard, the third Liz Talbot mystery. I’m going to be traveling a bit for the next few weeks—nothing like what Hank does, or Jenny Milchman’s never ending book tour. But I’ll be hitting the road.
One question that comes up right often when I’m out and about visiting book clubs, book festivals, and the like, is, “How much of you is in Liz Talbot?” I would bet many authors get this question. Are we putting ourselves on the page?
Not me, of course—I write fiction. It’s all made up, every bit of it. There’s no gun in my handbag, I promise.
What’s that you ask?
Well, yes, Liz and I are both Southern. We’re Carolina girls, born and raised. And, okay, we both grew up in small towns. Although, she has way more eccentric relatives than I do. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Liz and I both love mysteries—all kinds of puzzles. We share a love of Cheerwine, beaches, and all manner of Southern food, from fried chicken to sweet potato pie. We both love signing karaoke, though neither of us would fare well on The Voice.  The thing with the hand sanitizer? She gets that from me.
But in many ways we’re different. Liz is younger than I (though I still feel thirty-four inside) and she’s prettier. She has the skin I wish I had, and her hair is much better behaved. She’s much thinner than I am, but she isn’t skinny. If she were skinny, I’d have to hate her, and then where would we be? She’s fit, the way I wish I were. She runs on the beach every morning. I only run if something with big teeth is chasing me. She swims naked in the Atlantic at dawn. I go to water aerobics after I’ve had my coffee.
If unpleasantness erupts, Liz always thinks of the exact thing she wants to say on the spot. I tend to think of what I wished I’d said hours later. She’s braver than I am by far. I personally have never jumped from a moving Jet Ski into a boat while someone was shooting at me. There’s a long list of things Liz has done that I’ve never done—she gets to have a lot of fun and wear cute shoes while doing it.
On the other hand, I’ve done a few things Liz hasn’t. I’m married to my best friend. Her romantic situation is…complicated. I have four wonderful children. (And any of you with children over twelve knows there’s no small amount of bravery involved in surviving the teenage years.) I’ve written a few books. Liz won’t have time for that. I plan to keep her busy.


I’ve never been a private investigator. But I’ve read an awfully lot about them, and I’ve pestered the fire out of a few asking them questions. And the things I Google likely have me on several government watch lists. As I child, I wanted to be Nancy Drew. Liz Talbot is my avatar, is what I’m saying. She’s this perfect version of who I might’ve been in an alternate reality. It’s a bit like playing a video game, I think, though I don’t play many of those—just the dancing and yoga ones for exercise (occasionally).
I sit at the computer and live vicariously through a figment of my imagination. I embroil her in all manner of chaos and let her figure it all out. It’s deliciously fun. Liz Talbot isn’t me by a long shot. But I love experiencing her adventures from the safety of my office.
How about y’all? Reds and other writers, how much of you is in your protagonists? Readers, do you ever envision the author of a book as the protagonist? (I confess I do, and sometimes this gets awkward during the romantic scenes.)
HANK: Yup, me, too.  I mean--isn't Sue Grafton Kinsey? And Lee Child is Reacher, right? Who do you see as who? 

********************************

Susan M. Boyer is the author of the USA TODAY bestselling Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, won the 2012 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and garnered several other award nominations. Lowcountry Boneyard, the third Liz Talbot mystery, was released April 21, 2015. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone, and everyone has crazy relatives. You’ll find all of the above in her novels.
Susan lives in Greenville, SC, with her husband and an inordinate number of houseplants.
susanmboyerbooks.com


LOWCOUNTRY BONEYARD



Where is Kent Heyward? The twenty-three-year-old heiress from one of Charleston’s oldest families vanished a month ago. When her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot, Liz suspects the most difficult part of her job will be convincing the patriarch his daughter tired of his overbearing nature and left town. That’s what the Charleston Police Department believes. 

But behind the garden walls South of Broad, family secrets pop up like weeds in the azaleas. The neighbors recollect violent arguments between Kent and her parents. Eccentric twin uncles and a gaggle of cousins covet the family fortune. And the lingering spirit of a Civil-War-era debutante may know something if Colleen, Liz’s dead best friend, can get her to talk.

Liz juggles her case, the partner she’s in love with, and the family she adores. But the closer she gets to what has become of Kent, the closer Liz dances to her own grave.    


  

37 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Well now, I have to admit that I never exactly gave it much thought, but it makes perfect sense to me for a writer's protagonist to bear some of the author's characteristics. And Susan's little essay said it all so well . . . .

Edith Maxwell said...

So glad the next book is out, Susan. I love this series! I'm going to be watching for you and that little bottle of hand sanitizer at Malice...

I get asked by many readers if I am my protagonists. Really? Do I LOOK thirty two? I seem to be aging a lot faster than they are, so it's a blast to live in the head of someone who loves to head out for a two-hour hilly bike ride, or goes running to figure out the mystery. But of course we put parts of ourselves into our characters.

Margaret Turkevich said...

looking forward to your book. My main character is Lizzie, younger, thinner, and a much better tennis player than I am. She's a good mother of teenagers. But, she has personal issues, a past, and trips over bodies on a regular basis.

Kristopher said...

I'm so thrilled to see Susan here at JRW. Like the others in the series, Lowcountry Boneyard is great (psst:my full review will be up on Friday).

I always tell myself that the authors are not the character, but it's hard not to envision them when you are reading. It would be almost impossible to not include some personal traits within each character.

Deb Romano said...

Susan (or Liz!)

I laughed the whole time I read your first two books, except during the scary parts, of course! I can't wait for the third one.

I sometimes wonder where the characteristics/personality traits of some protagonists came from if the protagonist is someone I just can't bring myself to like or sympathize with.

Kaye Barley said...

Oh, this was just delightful! Just like the woman who wrote it. Can't wait to read this latest, Susan.

When people started reading Whimsey I was asked if I was Emma, or Aunt Zoe, or Earlene the Wicked Pixie - none of them and all of them, I think. Mostly though, it's fun writing characters who are and do things I would like to be and do.

Janet C said...

I loved it. These books get better with each new one.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Good morning, y'all! Hank, thank you so much for having me on JR today, and for that lovely introduction!

Joan, thank you! :)

Thank you, Edith! Isn't it fun to be someone else sometimes?

Margaret--teenagers--my had is off to Lizzie!

Awww! Kristopher I'm so thrilled to be here! Thank you! and I'm looking forward to Friday as well!! It is hard not to, isn't it?

Susan M. Boyer said...

Deb, thank you so much!

Interesting point! :)

Susan M. Boyer said...

Kaye, you are so sweet! Thank you and thank you!!

I completely agree--it is fun, isn't it? :)

Susan M. Boyer said...

Oooh--Janet, thank you so much!!

bermudaonion said...

I always wonder about authors and their protagonist too. I'm glad to know there's some of you in Liz!

Kathy Reel said...

Do you ever have those authors that keep popping up on your radar, but you haven't quite gotten to yet. Susan, you are popping up all over for me, so I will have to answer the call of Susan Boyer sooner rather than later. It's like my phone alarm that keeps going off unless I turn it off, although your pop-ups aren't annoying. And, now I find that you can throw a y'all around, I know my reading you is destiny calling. Your post here reveals a person full of good humor and wit, and the character of Liz Talbot sounds like she reflects that part of you. Oh, and the cover and the excerpt promise much enjoyment from this book and series.

Mark Baker said...

I don't always picture the author as their main character, but there are times you can tell how closely they align.

Gigi Pandian said...

I love this, Susan. You got it just right!

I did the same thing as you -- Jaya has parts of me (half Indian, with an academic background), but to make sure I didn't fall into writing too much of myself much into her, I'm quite tall so I made her the opposite. From there, she grew into her own person :)

Can't wait to read your latest!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, gosh, I always imagine it. Cara Black is Aimee LeDuc, n'es't-ce pas?

And even though I'm 65 and Jane is 35--I mean, I used to be 35. I kind of remember that. :-) And that's valuable! I think it's a wonderful way--as Susan says--to explore what we might have done, decisions we might have made. And also to re-examine and analyze the paths we took from a different perspective.

Julia said...

Susan's description of the character as the author's avatar is just about perfect. They're not us, but they capture and expand upon aspects of us.

Characters can also have other characters as antecedents. The hero and heroine of my first, never-finished science fiction novel were a space station chief of security and a social services professional. Both were former military. They weren't Russ and Clare, but they were very much their grandparents.

LynDee said...

Exactly, Susan. Nichelle plays with her hair when she's thinking, like I do, and she has a strong work ethic and unending determination to find the truth.

But she's wittier and sassier, her personal life is vastly different, and she can run in shoes I admire as works of art, but almost never wear.

Some of those things I wish I could do, and some of them, not so much. An avatar. :)

Mary Sutton said...

I don't think I've ever picture an author as her characters. Maybe some similar characteristics, but that's it.

In both my books, my protagonist is a guy. So, um, yeah. Not me. Again, some similar characteristics, but that's as far as it goes.

Hallie Ephron said...

Such a funny post--THANKS, Susan and thanks Hank for introducing her to us. Love the image of big teeth chasing you on the beach. That's what it takes to get me to run, too. No gun in handbag ether.

Having said that, I completely agree that we're all our protagonists. Definitely at the emotional core. Which is why the novels are more than just plots...

FChurch said...

Margaret Maron = Deborah Knott, at least when I read about Deborah's (mis)adventures!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Absolutely, Flora!

Mary, that is fascinating. Huh. I love how all of our brains are different.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Absolutely, Flora!

Mary, that is fascinating. Huh. I love how all of our brains are different.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Absolutely, Flora!

Mary, that is fascinating. Huh. I love how all of our brains are different.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Nice, huh? Blogger REALLY wanted me to post that.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Kathy,(BermudaOnion)it's like Hank said--I remember being thirty-four! It seems like yesterday.

Kathy Reel, I am SO, so happy to keep popping up on your radar! Thank you so much for your kind words! I so hope you enjoy getting to know Liz (and, errr, me :) ).

Susan M. Boyer said...

Gigi, thank you so much! And yes, I can definitely see the you in Jaya!

Hank, yes, definitely--analyzing things from a different perspective! :) (Hopefully a wiser one in my case. :) )

Susan M. Boyer said...

Julia, thank you! And I have to tell you, you are absolutely Clare in my mind's eye. :)

Susan M. Boyer said...

Mary, I can see how having a male protagonist would have an impact on this issue! :)

Susan M. Boyer said...

LynDee, I hear you on the some of the things not so much! :)

Susan M. Boyer said...

Oh, Hallie--thank you so much!

And I completely agree, that's why the novels are more than just plots.

Dru said...

In the recent book, Liz Talbot made a comment and my first thought was "that was Susan."

Dru

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Welcome Susan, what a fun post! My poor character is in her twenties, so not me. In fact a dear friend pointed out that we are older than my character's MOTHER.

but I don't feel that way! and yes, would never, no way, carry a gun or chase someone scary:). Leave that to the avatars...

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Susan, thank you for such a hilarious and thought-provoking day! Love you..

and see you soon!

Susan M. Boyer said...

Dru, I'm not surprised. :)

Thank you, Lucy!

Dear Hank, thank you so much for having me on today! Love you--can't wait to see you! xo

Annette said...

We had a big discussion about this at my most recent launch party when someone asked WHY Zoe is blond! It never occurred to me that anyone would picture my character as looking like me. Duh. Especially when I ALWAYS picture the character in any book I'm reading as looking exactly like the author!

Susan, wonderful post. Funny and charming, just like your books and just like YOU! See you VERY soon at Malice, where I shall hound you to sign my copy of Lowcountry Boneyard.

Susan M. Boyer said...

Annette, thank you so much--you're so sweet! And I cannot wait to see you at Malice! :) xoxo