Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meet "The Other Maria"

Mother loved my culinary mystery, Mission Impastable, and was curious about the one to follow, the one still not done, the one that should be in the editing process. Sigh.

Okay, you’re saying. Of course your mother loved your book. She even liked your erotic romance, Streetwalker (pen name Angelica French). That’s what mother’s do. They like the stuff their kids do.

Okay, I’ll give you that.

But what was really funny was how she didn’t see that I had modeled Maria, Gina’s mother (and Alli’s surrogate mother),  in part, after her. Like my mother, Maria was opinionated, bossy, nosy, and wanted to protect her children from any and all harm. She was happiest when they let her run things. Aren’t we all?

She thought Maria was a swell mom. And she is! Here are pictures of the two of them. Mother is on the right, but for Maria, scroll down on Pinterest until you see what I imagine Maria looked like. http://www.pinterest.com/authorsam/mission-impastable-story-board/

What Mother didn’t pick up on at all was Maria’s speech-mangling communication style. My mother used to take “Ibufferin” when she got too “flusterated”. She loved watching “Bobby Filet” on the food network. How could I not use that in a book?

My friends worried that I would offend her, but honestly, she never got it!

I think that is so funny because I am SUCH a word-guy! But not Mother. She simply didn’t hear language right. As a former reading teacher, I suspect her lack of auditory discrimination would have made it hard for her to learn to read using phonics. Fortunately, I had many other reading strategies in my arsenal for kids I taught who were like my mother. Phonics didn’t work. Other stuff did. I used whatever worked.

But back to Maria and Mother, I do think this brings up the issue of using real life folks as the inspiration for our book characters. It is inevitable that we are going to have archetypes and character tropes in our lives and that they show up on our pages. How we portray them, or they are perceived as portrayed, could affect our relationships.

Should be consciously strip our characters of traits in friends and family to avoid the risk of offending them? Is that even possible? I know that the real emotions and memories I have that are built around real-life relationships helps me bring an authenticity to the relationships of my characters.

So, no. I won’t try to sanitize characters to avoid the potential discomfort of my family and friends. Will I dissemble, however? You betcha! If confronted, I can always say, “Hey, you didn’t really think I was a prostitute, did you? So what makes you think that jerk is you? I know lots of jerks.”

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


  1. Thanks, Maddie. Have you read some of the others I wrote about Mother after she died on the 7th? Just scroll down for some more. It was a great way for me to process my feelings and the loss.