I'm delighted to have Cheryl Solimini as my guest blogger. Her first novel, Across the River was recently released and Cheryl was kind enough to share her thoughts with us...
“How much is your main character like you?”
As a profiler (not like those on Criminal Minds; I profile crime-fiction authors for Mystery Scene magazine and previously for Mary Higgins Clark Mystery), I’ve often asked my interviewees the question above. Some writers, like Lawrence Block, adamantly deny sharing any DNA with their series character, as if the query were an insult to their imagination. Others (Cornelia Read in particular) cheerfully admit that, except for a slightly slimmer body type and the habit of stumbling over dead people, their protagonists are carbon copies of themselves.
So when I was writing my debut mystery, Across the River, I anticipated the inevitable comparisons to real life. Yeah, like my heroine, reporter Andrealisa Rinaldi, I did grow up in a small riverside town in New Jersey, three miles long and three blocks wide, between a rock (The Palisades) and a hard place (New York City). I did, briefly, work for a publication that I was ashamed of (which I removed from my resume as soon as I could get away with it). And Andie and I do tend to spill things on ourselves (I could eat in a Chinese restaurant and still wind up with spaghetti-sauce splatters down the front of my shirt).
But I was sure that’s where the similarities ended. I don’t have an impulse-challenged twin sister (never mind that I’m a Gemini and could be my own twin). I don’t have a problem with romantic commitment (just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary, thank you very much). I don’t have curly hair (with my stick-straight locks, don’t I wish!). And I certainly had no connection to my hometown since I moved away at age 12.
That is, until the E mail arrived: “Did you go to Holy Rosary School in Edgewater????” The number of question marks in the subject header got my attention—plus I was stuck dead-center in writing the novel and looking for any distraction. The electronic blast from the past turned out to be from Jean, my best friend throughout my seven years at the Catholic grammar school. Thirty-five years after I’d last seen her, the magazine she was reading became unglued in the 102-degree heat of Arizona (where she now lived). So she reached for a different publication, saw my byline on an article and Googled me.
True, magazines these days are using inferior glue, but wasn’t it really my mental reminiscing, for literary purposes, that summoned her?
Weirder still: I had just created the character of Gina Fine, attorney for the suspected killer, based on how I thought my old schoolyard buddy had turned out. No, Jean hadn’t gone to law school. That would have been too Psychic Network. Instead, she had been a legal secretary, for a while dated only cops and attorneys, and never missed an episode of Law & Order.
Since then, I’ve visited Jean at both her new and her childhood home, and we E-mail each other regularly. Soon after, I also heard from two other classmates. Though neither was the model of the police detective in Across the River, both are now cops in my hometown, became sources and make cameo appearances (under aliases) in the finished book.
When Across the River was published in June by Deadly Ink Press, my old friends put out the word. After I put the eighth-grade graduation picture on my Web Site, www.acrosstheriver.info, messages from classmates from Las Vegas to New Hampshire arrived in my E mailbox.
I can’t even begin to describe the unexpected joy of these renewed connections. And I seem to have returned the favor: When my cop pals saw their names on my Acknowledgements page, Captain Joe E-mailed: “Wow. Me and Smitty, the two guys who would probably tie for last in the “Who last read a book?” contest, are actually in a book ourselves!” Soon I will be seeing my Boys in Blue (along with another former classmate who will be flying out from the Southwest) for the first time in 40 years, at my hometown book-signing on August 14. (Luckily, tiny Edgewater made room for a Barnes & Noble recently.)
How much is my main character like me? It's the other way around. I’m becoming much more like her. As Andie Rinaldi does, I’m discovering what it feels like to be embraced by community, a family, that I’d thought I’d left far behind. Yes, you can go home again.
Weirder still: I just got a new haircut. And damn if my hair isn’t curly.
C. (Cheryl) Solimini has written and edited articles for national publications from Family Circle to Woman’s Day. She is also the author of five nonfiction books, including a Baby Boomer humor book. Her interviews of mystery writers, from Michael Connelly to P.D. James, have appeared in Mystery Scene and Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine. After growing up in a New Jersey river town three miles long and three blocks wide, Cheryl now lives on eight acres in Pennsylvania, with her husband and other wildlife. Visit her Web site at www.csolimini.com.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Posted by BookBitch at 8/02/2008 01:51:00 PM