Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is It Real or Is It Fictional?

On Saturday, I drove to For Keeps Sake, a local independent scrapbook store, to drop off personalized books. Their manager Aleeta greeted me with her usual enthusiasm—and lots of questions. She’d just finished Paper, Scissors, Death, and she asked, “Did you pattern Time in a Bottle after a specific scrapbook store?”

No, I didn’t. But I did name the shop after one of my favorite songs, a tune I heard Jim Croce perform live years ago. When I visualized the store, I knew it had a large display window that faced a busy street. I knew it was south of Galleria, on Brentwood, in a transitional neighborhood. Behind the store are houses mainly owned by elderly tenants who are slowly being bought out. Down the street is a gas station. My fictional store occupies the short side of a wonky rectangle. I mentally planted flowers around the asphalt edges of the parking lot after I visited a new age store in the area with just such a floral fringe.

I didn’t have any particular store owner in mind when I created Dodie Goldfader, Time in a Bottle’s proprietor. I named my character after one of my husband David’s former employees, who is now deceased. We both adored “his” Dodie, so I loved the idea of memorializing her in my book. Each time I write about “my” Dodie, I feel happy remembering the woman we knew.

“My” Dodie doesn’t resemble her namesake—except that they are both dear, dear women with kind hearts. I describe “my” Dodie as being as hirsute as the wooly mammoth found on the grounds of nearby Principia College. And “my” Dodie lumbers when she walks, whereas the Dodie of real life was elegant and graceful.

Detweiler was named for a college friend of mine. My life was in turmoil, and his parents offered to adopt me in order to help me get through school. I didn’t take them up on the offer, but I never forgot how kind their offer was! Frank Detweiler was a loyal and true friend, just like Detective Chad Detweiler is in Paper, Scissors, Death.

So now you know a little secret about me and my book. It’s sort of a treasure chest of fond memories. A repository of special people who have made unique contributions to my life—and my husband’s. After all, if you’re going to spend a lot of time with characters, they might as well remind you of people you’ve loved.


Camille Minichino said...

So many wonderful things about creating fiction -- you can honor people or ... get even with them. [Oops, I'm giving myself away.]

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

You know, that desire to "get even" has waned, as the joy of including those I love has grown.

Camille Minichino said...

You have to remember, I'm Italian, Joanna.
Love one day, revenge the next ... :=)))

Betty Hechtman said...

Very funny comment, Camille. Joanna, I think it is cool that you named a character after someone you liked. So far the only characters in my books that are based on anyone real are three dogs - Blondie, Cosmo and Spike.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

That's probably a very safe decision, Betty!

Nicole said...

Joanna, these small tidbits and secrets about your books is really cool to know. I love knowing the "behind the scenes" look into authors and why they do what they do, and very very cool stories about Dodie and Detweiler.

Of course the best part of the book? My favorite new author wrote it and it was about the whole area I grew up in, so it was really nice to be so "close to home".

Oh, and thank you for answering the mystery surrounding the scrapbook store because I wondered about that too. :)