Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh, Kaye ! "The More That You Learn, The More Places You'll Go"

Oh, Dr. Seuss, the things I am learning.

 One of my favorite books (one of EVERYONE'S favorite books) is "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by the brilliant and delightful Dr. Seuss, and this is one of my favorite bits -

“And when you're alone there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.”

No truer words were ever written. They're especially true now that I've published my first novel. Boy, the things I did not know . . . . .

My learning curve during the writing of "Whimsey" was the longest learning curve I had experienced.  Little did I know that there was (and is) still more to come. The promotion learning curve (which is not nearly as much fun as the writing learning curve!), for one. With the promotion stuff comes questions I was truly not prepared for, some of which have been fun and funny. Today I'm going to try to focus on the fun and funny, but you know how I tend to go off on these tangents, so bear with me.  And, you know, I ramble and meander - so just ramble and meander along with me, please, 'cause I can't seem to corral my thoughts today.

For starters, let me just say . . .

Whimsey is fiction – it’s fiction . . . really - - - (and not just the
magic parts).

I’ve been surprised at how many people have asked me which character in the novel is me. Even more surprised by the people who have said, “and, of course, I picked you out right away.” Or, “I just know the character so and so was really our friend so and so.”
And then, they don’t believe me when I say, “well, no, actually, it’s fiction.”

And that’s true. It's fiction . . . really - - - (not just the magic parts . . . ).

There’s a little of me in every single character in the book – including Fred the Corgi and Pyewacket the Cat. Either the real me, or the me I might aspire to be. I have a mouth like a sailor like Sarah Kate, I love Willie Nelson and the colors red and pink like Emma, I tend to tell friends exactly how I feel like Olivia tends to do, I’m enthusiastic about things like Maggie and I’m a bit introspective like Alexandria.

What I am not is tall, thin, gorgeous, and artistically gifted. (sigh)  Nor am I as young as The Wicked Women.

I’m not wise and sophisticated like Zoe and I’m not a great cook like Zelda (nor do I even like to cook).

Earlene is a pixie, so I can't be her . . .

Madeline is a make-believe person, and I'm pretty sure I not make-believe . . .

None of the characters in the book are people I know in real life. I do, however, know these characters well in my mind, and they all now have a special place in my heart. I cannot get them to stop talking and telling me what they want to do next. Sometimes they make me laugh out loud when I'm all by myself. And sometimes even when I'm not all by myself.

It’s life we have all, at some time, dreamed.  Who wouldn't want to live on a magical island? But truth be told – our own lives do have magic, I think. It’s just up to us to discover it. And Whimsey seems to be helping some readers remember that. I am prouder of that than I can say.

But okay, yes (I told you I tend to wander off course . . . ) – there is a scene that is based on a true happening. It happened when I was a little girl in the apartment I grew up in. In the fictional version, while Emma is having lunch with her family in what they refer to as “the big house” she spies faded images on the walls. Images of some surprisingly familiar faces . . . . 

But wait! 
I've learned more. 
I've learned my name must be near impossible for some people. 

Kaye becomes Kay (actually, I'm used to that). When I asked my mom why she put that "e" on the end she said it was because she named me after her sister Kaye. If I wanted to know any more than that I should ask my grandmother. My grandmother was a woman who, IF she had a reason for doing many of the things she did, you were better off not questioning . . . . So, I never asked (and I promise you, Reds, if you had known my grandmother you wouldn't have asked either. Another story for another day . . . ).

Wilkinson becomes Wilkerson. sigh. I find this painful. Can't even talk about it.

Barley becomes Bailey. Or Barkley. Or Barney. Why??

Why, dear Reds, are names so hard for some people to get right? Especially when there's say, a book, with the name right there on the cover? Right there? Right in front of them?

And, Red writers, do you get asked the same questions about characters being based on yourself or people you know?

Red readers, does your mind tell you that the characters are based on real people? Either the author or people the author knows? 

I have found this to be very interesting because I don't think I have ever considered that the characters in the novels I read were ever anything other than imaginary people who lived in the writer's very own imagination. Now, I'm going to be really paying attention to some characters! Thinking how much I might really love hanging out with a particular character, or how much I would really hate having to spend time with another. I mean, I've always felt this way on a certain level anyway, but now it will have an extra little layer of interest.

I have one more bit of news to share because I won't "see" you here again until after this event has taken place, and well - I'm excited!

I'm getting ready to participate in my very first ever "writerly event" as a writer instead of as a fan. 


The High Country Festival of the Book" right here in Boone, North Carolina, on June 21 and 22, which you can read about here -
I'll be one of "exhibiting authors," and I'll be sharing a table signing books with my good friend and mentor, Celia Miles.  Several other local writers will be exhibiting - including many members of The High Country Writers group.  The "presenting authors" include Sharyn McCrumb, Cathy Pickens, Patricia SprinklePhillip DePoy (I love him!), Ann Hite, Erika Marks, and loads more

along with friends Kay Byer (former North Carolina Poet Laureate), Larissa Reinhart, Gayle Trent and lots of others terrific writers I read and enjoy and admire - the list is long and impressive.  If you're in the area, I hope you'll come by!  And if you can't make it this year, think about attending, and possibly participating, next year.  Contact person is Suzanne Thompson
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!”
Wish me luck, everyone!!!


  1. Cheers for Doctor Seuss, who was definitely delightful and brilliant . . . and cheers for your ”writerly event,” which sounds super . . . I hope you have a wonderful time.

    As for your question about characters . . . my mind tells me if they are realistic, but I never considered whether or not they were based on real people, including the author or people known to the author. And, the truth be told, I don’t really care how they came into being; I just want them to be realistic . . . so I guess their creation is solely the province of the author . . . .

  2. The Very Best of Luck, Ms. Kaye! This quote's for you:

    "Today you are You, that is truer than true.
    There is no one alive who is Youer than You."

  3. So fun, to learn where your characters came from. I don't understand why readers insist on slotting them in boxes, or making the author's work be "about" something or another. Can't they just read and enjoy it?

    About names: People are generally pretty damned lazy about other people's. When my last name was Whitaker no one could spell it (there are, to be far, a bunch of different ways), but I could never understand those who pronounced it "White Acre". However, when I first met the Maslowski family and mentioned this, my future brother-in-law said "Don't tell US your problems!" LOL Even friends who have known my husband since childhood, and who have heard him pronounce it correctly for decades, still say it wrong. (The middle syllable is pronounced "love", like the emotion.)

    I've given that Dr. Suess book to many, many graduating high school and college person. It's truly a classic.

  4. Under the charming, southern lace, there is a helluva lot of wisdom from this author! Thelma Jacqueline in Manhattan

  5. Mornin', cuties! Happy Sunday! Now, how did I know you guys would all be Dr. Seuss fans?!

    Karen, it IS the perfect graduation gift isn't it? I too have given it often. And now I have another book that I think fits the occasion to a "T." Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech, in its entirety, is now available in a wonderful little book designed by graphic artist Chip Kidd. Have y'all seen it?

    Thelma Jacqueline, I love you. You are always so sweet and so kind and so gracious. We are all so lucky to have you. <3

  6. Congrats on your writerly event!

    I understand about the name thing--for years people insisted on calling me Diana. During my early flight nurse years, I worked with a Diana. We bowed to confusion, and both of us answered to both names (it was easier that way). When my last name was Godwin, it was regularly changed to Goodwin. Now it's Hale. Easy, you'd think. But no, Hall, Hill, unbelievable. And the spellings for my name? Almost enough to make one give up the attempt to correct.

    I do believe characters in books are based on real people--just not individual persons. Writers have to be inveterate people-watchers. Seeing the individuality in mannerisms, speech patterns, etc., is what becomes the basis for characters rich in personality that readers recognize as being "real". And the fact that your readers claim they know who the character is based on is a testament to your ability to create a well-rounded, believable person able to walk off the page. Perhaps a back-handed compliment? :-)

  7. The Places You'll Go is one of my very favorite books - EVER! Thank you for posting about, Kaye! And yes, I have had people think that my characters are real, especially when it comes to their break ups and make ups. Oy, lots of distressed emails received about that! I am delighted that you are doing a big author event. Way to go! Wishing you lots of luck - but you don't need it - you have enough charm to get you through anything :)

  8. First off, yes, what an amazing Seuss book that is. No truer words could have ever been said, and they're as real now as they were the day they were written, and will continue to be real in years to come.

    As for my characters? For me, most of my characters have traits from people I know or have met, but no one character is fully based on any one person in particular. However, I've killed off characters as a way of getting back at someone who wronged me. That's one of the best things about being a writer. :)

  9. Oh, Kaye, your journey is such fun for all of us! Thank you for this..I sell have the newspaper clipping on my refrigerator from my very first "writer" event. The headline says--Reporter Turns Mystery Novelist. S funny! I look at it every day.

    As for that Dr. Seuss--you know, I have never sad it. Hmm. The others--oh, yes, of course! And after I do my words for the day, I'll go get it.

    And the "name" thing. Don't even get me started. (Too late.) But it's my own fault, I guess.

  10. I guess I flounder at the thought that someone would assume a fictional character is based on someone comes somewhat from the fact that everyone is going to share personality traits with other people and it's their own unique mix of them that makes them the person they are. Speaking only of my characters - they, of course, share traits with others (and with me) but there are as more "missing" traits than . . . oh, never mind, I'm making a muck of this! LOL!!!!

    But I'm enjoy very much reading everyone's take on this (and for being able to articulate your thoughts better than I'm obviously able to do). This week has NOT been a good writing week for me.

    Jenn - I am such a huge fan of yours. and I'm a huge fan of hats. You know I'm tapping my toe in impatience and anticipation of CLOCHE AND DAGGER!

    Terri - so far, I haven't killed off anyone. But, oh yes - - it will happen. :-)


  11. sigh.

    I'm not writing well, I'm not typing well - I'm gonna go eat worms.

  12. Gotta love Dr. Seuss! As a reader I've always assumed that the authors take bits 'n pieces of what they see, hear, experience and mix them well to create great characters and fascinating stories.

    When talking about names, almost no one mis-pronounces my name Andersen. Spelling it? Try being an Andersen in a world full of Anderson -- people spell it wrong even when I s l o w l y spell it for them! See, they "know" how it is spelled, except they don't. The only time I insist it be spelled correctly is on anything legal.

    Kaye, so you are having a bad week writing and spelling. Maybe you need to give yourself a day or two of "me" time, then try again. Sometimes people push themselves too hard and end up creating more problems than solutions. How about making one of your famous sinfully rich chocolate bundt cakes to cheer yourself up?

  13. Many many times I have WISHED a character were based on a real person, so that I could meet them and hang out. But alas, I know enough writers to know that most characters are composites of different traits from different people.

    As for the name thing, I can't even begin to talk about it. As a child, I hated that my parents named me Kristopher. But I have grown to love it. But there isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't misspell it.

    Professionally, I tend to use Kristopher because with Kris, everyone always assumes I am a woman. But even Kristopher doesn't always solve the problem.

    I just keep reminding myself that I was named in homage to Kris Kristofferson, so that's not to shabby. ;-)

    What can ya do?

  14. Patty - I think you are exactly right! So. I've been hanging out at :-)

    ACK! Speaking of Kris Kristofferson (I love him!), I recently re-watched the Steisand/Kristofferson version of A STAR IS BORN. I love every version of that movie.

  15. What a fun post! I love Dr. Seuss and one of my superpowers is the ability to recite "Fox in Socks." Quite rapidly. It is hardly ever useful, but when it is, there's no substitute!

    Kaye, I love your enthusiasm and warmth! I just ran out to Amazon and bought Whimsey -- can't imagine how I've missed it until now!

    Kristopher, when I go by "Kris," everyone assumes I'm a man! There's just no way to win, is there? I'd like to claim vast superiority but have to admit that during semesters when I have, oh, say an "Alyssa," an "Alisa," an "Alisha," and an "Alisah" all in the same class, I've been known to screw up spellings a time or five.

    Now I'll be humming "Liza with a 'Z'" all day!

  16. Kristi - You have NO idea how much you have brightened my day. And it was in dire need of some brightening. I now have snippits of "Fox in Socks" running through my mind and am mightily impressed that you can do it and do it "quite rapidly!" I love that! 'Tis a superpower, indeed. thank you.

  17. Hi Kaye, and all. Love Dr. Seuss, of course. The name thing-Lil has always been moved to Liz, and even to Lisa. So I just smile, and respond.

  18. Kaye, you are in good company. Arianna Huffington also quoted Dr. Seuss in her address to the Smith College grads!!! TJS

  19. Kaye (with an "e":-)), have you any idea who much I hate being called "Crumby?" I get others-- "Cromley," etc., but "Crumby" is the worse. Also hate being called "Mrs." Crombie is my ex-husband's name. I haven't been Mrs. Crombie for almost twenty years, and I never liked being called "Mrs." on principle even then.

    My husband's name is Wilson, which is one of the few that people seldom mess up. I use it for convenience occasionally even though it's not legally my name. And try explaining to people that you and your husband have different names, but, yes, we ARE married.

    And don't get me started on "Debbie!" which I hate!!!!

    Now that I've vented on that, thanks for the Dr. Seuss! And I'm going to look up the Neil Gaiman book--I have a couple of adorable girls I'd like to give graduation presents to.

    Characters--I've never deliberately based a character on a specific person. Very weird that people think writers do that. I'd say they're either suffering from a lack of imagination, or, if they think they are in the book, an elevated sense of importance:-)

    Congrats on the author event, dear! You will wow everyone, as always!



    thank you

    thank you

    I love it here.

  21. Crumby, that's wonderful! Can we call you that?

    Kaye, you'll put up photos, right? And maybe wear your Jungle Red pashmina? :-) xoxo


  22. Debby Crumby (snort). oh noooooooo - - -

    Hank! My Jungle Red Pashmina! Perfect!!!!! (have I mentioned how much I love my Jungle Red Pashmina?! And you. xxoo)

    Pictures?! Have you ever known me to go ANYWHERE without my camera?! There will be SO many pictures.

    and thanks, everyone, for the good wishes. For a day starting out not so great, you've turned it into a delightful one.

  23. Kaye, love your post. Reminds me of a Charles Dickens quote I read years ago but have never been able to find again. He said words to the effect that he was all of his characters, even the villains, because there is something of each man in every man. Now, good luck with the festival. I know you will wow them!
    Pat Browning

  24. Kaye--Congratulations again on Whimsey!

    It's kind of unsettling to get that sort of question, isn't it? It amazes me, since my life is so quiet that I know a book about *me* wouldn't be interesting...besides, it's so much more fun to make things up! :)

  25. Congrats, Kaye on your writerly event! What a lovely way reset my Monday--reading this post and the comments (even though I'm late). I've never wondered if my favorite authors based characters on real people they knew, and mine certainly aren't. A bit of my perfect, imagined self is sprinkled in, although that's not entirely purposeful. Names? Oh, dear. I married an Oberg. Not an O'Berg, not an Oberge. It's Swedish, but no one gets it right. And I'm a Pamela, not a Pam--don't even get me started! (Pam is a lovely name, it's just not MY preferred name, and why would a stranger slice and dice my name for me? Seems overly familiar. "Hi, I'm Pamela." "Nice to meet you, Pam." Ugh!) My favorite, though, is my brother and sister in law, who both changed their last names to a wholly new one when they married--to Andresen. Yes, they get lots of Anderson, Andersen, etc. Nothing close to Crumby, though. Oh, my!

  26. Kaye, I see some of you in every character in Whimsey, and I think that's how it should be. I'll even admit that Tall Chambers, the protag in my new book, is me. Okay, he's younger, taller, better-looking, tougher, sexier, and does things I would never have the guts to do, but except for those tiny differences, he's me.

  27. My name is Kimberly and people always shorten it to Kim. I hate being called Kim, and it irks me that if, when meeting someone for the first time, I say, "Hi, I'm Kimberly," and the person says, "Hi Kim." GRRRR...

    Nobody spells my last name correctly, either. It's Bristol and people either spell it Bristow or Bristle.

    So I feel all of your