I was interviewed by my publisher recently. I was asked an array of questions. One of my favourites was:
You're a former Sunday school teacher, current special needs teacher, you rescue hedgehogs and are all-sorts of lovely. But Blackthorn is a pretty DARK place – there are vampires eaten alive and some pretty imaginative torture scenes – do you have a dark side?
Talk about getting to the point! I laughed when I first read it – purely at the contradiction it presented of me vs my books. But it did make me reflect on just how much of ‘me’ is in my stories.
I suppose it’s what actors might get a lot – where the audience assumes they are the person presented on screen. I guess it could be frustrating for them, but in other ways it must be very flattering. So adept are they at their role that they convince their audience their character is real.
As writers, that’s our job above all else – to suspend disbelief. Readers know they’re reading a piece of fiction, but every word must absorb them so convincingly into the world that they believe they’re there, that those characters are real enough to be standing in front of them. And that’s the key element – authentic, tangible, believable characters.
How authentic would my characters be if only my experiences, my behaviours, my views, principles or perceptions came out of their mouths and actions? Just how convincing would my hardened, worldly-wise vampires be if they expressed themselves with ‘oh gosh’ instead of expletives, shied away from confrontation, or declined from intimidating behaviour on the grounds of the emotional damage it would cause? If instead of torture, they had tea and cake and resolved their disputes like reasonable individuals.
A close friend of mine who bought Blood Shadows said she hoped that, during reading it, she wouldn’t hear me in the story. “I don’t want to be thinking about you,” she said, “when I’m trying to get into the heads of the characters. I find it so irritating when all I can hear is the author in the background.”
I tentatively waited to hear what she thought. I think her surprise said it all.
I guess it was confirmation enough that I let my characters speak for themselves. Do you?