Thursday, May 11, 2017

Girlfriends by Charlene D'Avanzo #giveaway

LUCY BURDETTE: JRW welcomes Charlene D'Avanzo to the blog today. Hallie, Hank, and I met her a couple of years ago when she attended one of our Seascape writing weekends. And now her second mystery will be published this month--yay! She asked if our readers might be interested in how she develops her characters--and I said, bring it on!

CHARLENE D'VANZO: If you have the messed-up-world blues, I’ve got the perfect antidote.

This comes via my good buddy Marcia. It’s a YouTube clip of Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Cher singing “It’s A Wonderful World” at the “Mothers & Others” concert in 1989.

Seconds after Bette launched into “I see worlds of green …” I sported a huge whopping grin and swayed with the (so very young) lovely ladies on the stage. It was an instant up, a memory-lane high.

Since yesterday, I’ve been trying to puzzle out the magic of that video clip and think I’ve got it.

It’s girlfriends. Bette, Meryl, Cher, and Goldie, arms around each other’s waists, belting it out together. It’s me and Marcia singing along, loud and out of key.
And it’s the lyrics -

            I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do,
            They're really saying I love you.”

Corny, to be sure, but sometimes that’s just what you need. At its best, corny is relaxed, familiar, undemanding. Kind of like comfy shoes you always reach for. Best girlfriends are like that.

I write what I call environmental mysteries that feature girlfriend Maine oceanographers. Mara, my protagonist, and fellow scientist Harvey (short for Harville) are colleagues at the “Maine Oceanographic Institute”. These women watch out for each other. Harvey does things like make sure Mara’s wearing her seasick patch on research cruises (Mara’s a marine scientist who is plagued by seasickness). Mara gently challenges lonely Harvey’s claim that local guys in Spruce Harbor are too “rough” for her.

Mara and Harvey share a lot of traits. They both bright, successful scientists who’ve made it in a male-dominated profession. So I’ve struggled to draw them as distinct characters.

They do look different. Mainer Mara is an auburn, athlete type who hangs out in rubber boots and flannel shirts. Harvey’s a silver-spoon child who’s crisp and clean after a day counting fish underwater. That works, but I needed more and found it in Enneagrams.

The Enneagram defines nine distinct but interconnected personality types also called archetypal characteristics. For example, Individualists want nothing more than to be uniquely themselves and Peacemakers avoid conflict at all costs. As Mara and then Harvey I took an Enneagram test available online. My two leading ladies came out quite different in ways I hadn’t articulated. The contrast made a lot of sense and has been very useful.

In my first book “Cold Blood, Hot Sea”, Reformer Mara is outraged when a colleague’s life is threatened by climate change deniers. She’s on a mission to make this wrong right at all costs.  While noble, that quest gets her into a whole lot of trouble. Leader Harvey also sees the world as an unjust place, but she exudes confidence and good sense. People see her as someone who accomplishes her goals, a person they’d follow.

In “Demon Spirit, Devil Sea” (second book, out in May) I used the classic traits to set the two characters apart. For instance, anything that interferes with Leader Harvey getting the job done drives her wild. So when a stalled boat motor delays an important fieldtrip, Harvey looks at her watch every thirty seconds and scowls at the boat captain. Mara wants to move along but isn’t catatonic. Later, when the captain makes a fundamentally wrong claim about warming oceans, Mara instantly confronts him. Pragmatic Harvey steps in bring down the heat and make sure they get safely back home.

Of course, the veteran Jungle Red authors know how to draw well-defined characters (Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy is one of my favorites). But other newbies like me might just find the Enneagram approach useful. 

Who are your favorite fictional girlfriends, and why?

Charlene will be giving away a copy of DEMON SPIRIT, DEVIL SEA to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment and your email to be entered in the drawing.

Demon Spirit, Devil Sea, the second in Charlene D'Avanzo's Maine Oceanography Mystery Series, is set in Haida Gwaii fifty miles off British Columbia, one of the few intact temperature rainforests on Earth and a spectacular sea kayak destination. As she untangles a climate change crime, scientist Mara Tusconi faces the Haida Nation’s mistrust of outsiders like her, spiteful spirits that aren’t suppose to exist, and mystifying death of the Haida guide who saved her life.

Marine ecologist and award-winning environmental educator Charlene D’Avanzo studied the New England coast for forty years. Her Mara Tusconi Oceanography Mystery Series takes readers into the stunning beauty of Maine’s seawaters and other magnificent coasts plus the grave threats facing them. An avid sea kayaker, D’Avanzo lives in Yarmouth, Maine.


46 comments:

  1. Charlene, your Mara and Harvey sound delightful. I’m looking forward to reading your books . . . .
    Favorite fictional girlfriends? The March sisters . . . they’ve got the whole unconditional support down pat and they have an unbreakable bond. It’s a plus that Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth are sisters as well. Interestingly enough, Elizabeth and Charlotte in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” also have this same sort of relationship.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right there with you Joan, on the March girls. Perfect example. Another would be the Betsy-Tacy books.Testament to how much early reading sticks with us!

      Delete
  2. I think one of the main problems with fiction these days is that we don't see a lot of friendships between characters who are not in a romantic relationship. Not a lot of guys who have a posse; not a lot of women who have good girlfriends; not a lot of platonic work buddies. And yet, many times, these are the relationships that sustain us through the rough patches in our lives. Some romance writers focus on women and their circle of friends, but our detectives are often loners who don't get along with much of anyone. That's why I really enjoy reading about the circle of friends Debs has created in her books. The friendship between Gemma and Melody has to be one of my favorite BFF relationships. I also really enjoy seeing the interaction Ingrid has created between Fina and her brothers: adult siblings who have found common ground in dealing with their parents and managing the family's black sheep. It rings true, and makes Fina a better character than she would have been had she been completely estranged from family, and out in the world with few friends, as too many detectives are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gigi! I think adult sibling relationships are fascinating, and I'm so glad that you think the Ludlow "kids" ring true.

      Delete
  3. The Enneagram sounds like a useful tool. I wonder why they aren't more friend-relationships in fiction, especially between men and women. Is it because readers automatically want people paired up?

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
  4. Charlene, Congratulations on the books! They sound fun and fascinating... a great combo. Characters who are opposites on personality traits BELONG in the same book. It's a built-in source of conflict, and that's the secret sauce.

    Favorite fictional girfriends. Going way back, I loved Cordelia Gray's older sidekick/friend (P. D. James) in An Unsuitable Job for a Woman... anyone remember her? I think her name was Edith.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Hallie - Actually, you (and Roberta) got me going way back at one of your Conn. mystery writer workshops. And, the 3 beta-readers (women, of course) I depend on still took that workshop too. THANK YOU HALLIE - Your work is crucial to so many of us.

      Delete
  5. Joan, Gigi, Mary - Yes, yes, yes. Not much girl "just friends". Or boy-girl ones for that matter. And THANKS for the girlfriend/sister book ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Welcome and congratulations, Charlene. If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a marine biologist, although I can't imagine diving. I'd drown. Do ecologists have to dive?

    I haven't thought about the Enneagram in years, not since I lived in California and was exploring all sorts of philosophies. What an imaginative way to develop a character!

    The first fictional female friendship (don't you love alliteration?) that comes to mind is that of Ruth and Clara of Three Pines. It seems real to me, not saccharine, not sentimental, not always even, but ever there.

    Another fascinating duo are Eddie and Patsy in Ab Fab. Not a book, but reminiscent of life in this savage world.

    Interesting thoughts on a Thursday morning. Thank you for this topic Lucy Roberta.

    Ann in Rochester who will finally see the back of the painter today and can move back into the bedroom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Finta - There's an awesome dive scene in "Demon Spirit" - Mara and Harvey 100 feet down in a world-class kelp forest when Mara gets tangled up in the kelp. (You might want to skip that segment). But no, you don't have to dive to be a marine biologist.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Traveler - really appreciate your kind words! As a Canadian, I think you'll enjoy "Demon Spirit, Devil Sea" because it mostly takes place 50 miles off B.C. in Haida Gwaii. Like all my mysteries, it's based on a real climate change event - when the Haida nation was duped out of $1 million by an American entrepreneur a few years ago. The archipelago's a great place for a mystery - dripping, brooding rainforest; cold, dangerous sea; Haida totem poles on the beaches; ancient spirits all around. You get the idea!

      Delete
  8. Charlene,I'll be looking for your series--I love the fact that Mara and Harvey have nontraditional professions--how many times in your career did you have someone assume you were the hired help and approach the nearest male when they had a question? Definitely, yes, Gemma and Melody, Clara and Ruth. There aren't that many pairings that spring to mind, but Susan Wittig Albert's China Bayles and Ruby come to mind--the characters couldn't be more different, but they sure understand friendship!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Flora - thanks. When I was a grad student in Woods Hole, I was both very young-looking and female. Back then it was a male-dominated place. So yes, there were looks and comments. Things are different now, thank goodness. There's a veteran female oceanographer in my stories named Betty - "plug of a woman in a plaid flannel shirt and army boots; cantankerous, smart as a whip, crusty". She's based on one of the first women oceanographers in the 60's. Betty takes no c**p from anyone!

      Delete
  9. I love this! What a good idea. It sort of sets your characters voice, doesn't it? That is such a moment, when your character turns from being words on paper to a real person… And this sounds like a fascinating way to get help get us there. Thank you -- and congratulations on the new book!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hank - so great of you to comment. And YOU are a force of nature in the mystery writing world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw...well, awwww. So wonderful of you to say! (And I would be terrified to go in a sea kayak. Why did you try it in the first place?)

      Delete
  11. Don't know the Jane Lawless series and will check it out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charlene,

      I've been a fan of her Jane Lawless series since stumbling onto the first one many years ago in a used book store.

      And I'm not alone in my love of her work as Ellen Hart just received the Grand Master award from the Mystery Writers of America.

      Delete
  12. Thank you for this very interesting and thoughtful post. I don't know about Enneagrams but think I should find out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Triss - Give it a try. It's easy, fun, and it works.

      Delete
  13. Your writing is fascinating and this book would be a treasure to cherish since the setting is close to my heart. B.C. and the environment is precious. favorite fictional girlfriends are two wonderful characters - Nancy Drew and Maisie Dobbs. Both with the identical career and fearless women who are ahead of their time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a ton, petite. Yes - Haida Gwaii is one of the last intact temperate rainforests on Earth! I was fascinated to explore why a people so tied to nature would pay an American businessman $1 million to dump tons of pink iron slurry into their waters. It really happened! People are complicated. Nancy and Maisie - two of my favorites as well.

      Delete
  14. Hurrah for more stories with close girlfriends! It is odd, considering how so many of us are sustained by our friendships, that they don't take front-and-center more often in crime fiction.

    Also? Very exciting to see mysteries related to climate change. The issue to so important and so all-encompassing, I think we need to see more about it in fiction!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Julia - there actually is a genre called "cli-fi" (yes, like sci-fi) and it's hot! (oh dear, bad, bad pun. Most are set in the future and dystopian - not my type of book. I thought it was really important to bring the issue home to here and now so folks could better get what's going on.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The friendship question in interesting! There is an author named Randy Wayne White who I sort of consider a guilty pleasure because his works feel to me like they were written for male readers -- full of action/adventure thrills and testosterone-driven. But one of the reasons I have kept coming back and read all his books is the friendship between his protagonist, Doc Ford, a marine biologist with a secret past as a black ops military guy, and his best friend Tomlinson, an aging hippie/mystic/stoner with a heart of gold. They are opposites who have forged a deep friendship and it feels so real that it keeps me coming back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Susan - I LOVE Randy Wayne White for his irreverence and, of course, that he's a marine biologist. Did you know he has a series called "Hannah Smith Novels" that feature Hannah from his other books? Very, very strong female protagonist. Check it out.

      Delete
    2. Me too on loving Doc Ford and Tomlinson. I was not bowled over by the Hannah book I read--seemed too much like a man writing a sexy woman:)

      Delete
  17. Hi Charlene! What an interesting idea for developing characters. And I'm very interested in your protagonists' jobs. I wanted to be a marine biologist, although obviously not as seriously as I might have... I also have a great niece who IS very serious about becoming a marine biologist and I will recommend your books to her.

    Thanks, Gigi, for the shout out to Gemma and Melody. It's such fun to write about them, and about the other complicated friendships of all gender combinations in the books. As for my favorite fictional girlfriends, I love Lucy's Hayley Snow and Miss Gloria. Now there's a friendship.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Charlene! Will do. Her name is Sarah.

      Delete
  18. My, this does sound like good reading material.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, Charlene, I've never heard of enneagrams - that is fascinating. I can see where it would allow you to dig deeper into the hidden intricacies of character. Have you used it on your antagonists? I ask because those are the ones I struggle with to make them a bit more complex instead of just "bad guy". I grew up in CT and my parents were hard core environmentalists so I am really looking forward to your series!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenn - No I haven't used the enneagram approach on antagonists - it's a great idea. Thanks for the support. I really, really appreciate it.

      Delete
  20. Strong friendships are definitely something that will draw me to books (or a TV series) and keep me coming back. Sounds like you've captured that well.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I think friendships add greatly to stories. Someone has to have your back. I managed to squeeze some duos out of my brain: Sarah Booth Delaney and Tinkie from Carolyn Haines' Bones series. Violet Parker and Natalie from the Deadwood series by Ann Charles. Charley Davidson and Cookie from the Reaper series by Darynda Jones. Kristan Higgins has had some impressive sister duos also in her latest books.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Congratulations on the book, Charlene. Sounds like an interesting read.

    And I get how/why Mara and Harvey team up and support each other. I spend the bulk of my career in the Canadian federal department as a climate change researcher. Our division had 33 staff, with only 3 female scientists. I was fortunate that one of the three was my mentor since university days who supported me my entire career.

    Some good fictional female character duos have already been mentioned. I agree with Gemma and Melody, as well as China Bayles and Ruby, and Hayley and Miss Gloria. I also like Elaine Viets' Dead End job mysteries with Helen Hawthorne and her landlady Margery. grace dot koshida at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks Mark, Pat D, and Grace. Hadn't though about TV series friendships - could be a good model, Mark. Pat D - excellent brain squeeze. And Grace - you were a climate change researcher in Canada? Awesome! I do think you'll enjoy "Demon Spirit" and of course you know about the Haida nations geoengineering "experiment". Don't hesitate to contact me with your impressions from the story.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Charlene,
    I can't wait to read the dive scene in your book. I love to scuba dive, but I have to admit that being in a kelp forest sounds kind of creepy!

    My favorite female friendship is Nancy Drew, George, and Bess. They were great friends who were always up for adventure!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ingrid - That scene is creepy for sure, but it's also full of color and amazing critters. I tried hard to "get the reader in the water"- especially folks who haven't spent time underwater. Like how all the sounds from the airy world are gone as you slip under the water. Thanks for the interest.

      Delete
    2. Ingrid, I thought of them late last night. Why it took so long, I don't know. Brain fried?

      Mary/Liz

      Delete
  25. I love books and series with characters who have interesting, atypical jobs (although it pains me to say that a job is atypical for a woman when it shouldn't be). Mara and Harvey sound like great characters, and they're even better because they're friends and support one another in their jobs. The environmentalist focus really catches my attention. I look forward to reading these, Charlene. Oh, and the enneagram sounds like a fascinating tool.

    Some of my favorite women friendships in books have already been mentioned. Gemma and Melody, Haley and Miss Gloria, and Ruth and Clara. Other favorites are Molly Murphy and Sid and Gus; Lady Georgie and Belinda; and Mavis, Annie, Carol and Christine of the Wise Enquiries Agency (Cathy Ace)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kathy - I call myself an "environmental mystery writer". If you want to read why I left my academic job and transformed myself into a mystery writer when I'd never penned a word of fiction go to charlenedavanzo.com. Has to do with climate change.

      Delete
    2. Yes, I would like to read about that. Thanks for the link.

      Delete
  26. Hi Charlene,
    I'm looking forward to reading your next book, "Demon Spirit, Devil Sea". I love Mara and Harvey (and that she is named Harvey)! It's inspiring to see that two beautiful, brilliant female scientists support each other personally and professionally. They are characters that readers want to root for, so readers are pulled to care about their dilemmas and dangers, as well. What a terrific way to introduce readers to not only learning about climate change, but experiencing its dangers alongside these characters.

    Nancy Drew and and her girlfriend Bess have been a favorite for me since the beginning. I remember many nights with a flashlight reading well past my bedtime. Thanks for giving us new adventures!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I loved your first book and can't wait to read the final version of "Demon Spirit." Two girlfriends that always make me laugh are Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum and Lula. Such a funny, unlikely pair. Are you doing any book events down South, by which I mean Boston area?

    ReplyDelete