So often when friends and family read an author’s books—particularly one written in the first person—they make the assumption that the author and the narrator/main character are one and the same. When my mom read my first book, an unpublished romantic comedy, she learned that the main character’s dad had died, and that the young woman’s mother was dating a man who owned several car dealerships. As she was reading, she turned to my father with a satisfied air and said: “Hah! She’s killed you and given me a rich boyfriend.”
Um, no, Mom. That’s not how it works.
In interviews though, I am often asked how much of my own experience informs that of my main character, Victoria Rienzi. Like Victoria, I worked in Italian restaurants. I appreciate good food. I love the Jersey shore, listen to Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra, and share her terror of boardwalk rides. But that’s about it. Here’s where my amateur sleuth and I part ways:
- · I do not, under any circumstances, chase down murderers. That’s why God gave us 911.
- · I am a bit—okay, quite a bit—older than Victoria.
- · My father does not have a gambling problem and my mother does not have big hair. At least not now.
- · I do not, alas, have two hunky guys vying for my attention. Those days are long gone, gentle readers.
- · Her jokes, her real estate (a seaside cottage) and her legs are all much better than my own.
When I’m in the process of writing, however, in some ways, I become my narrator. I live inside her head, think her thoughts and feel her feelings. I get afraid when a suspect is on to her. I’m triumphant when she works out a piece of the mystery. And yes, I get a little vicarious thrill when those cute guys are fighting over me…I mean her.
But after I hit “save” and shut down that computer, the spell is broken. It’s something of a relief to go back to being Rosie, whose only puzzle to solve is the crossword and whose biggest mystery is that ever burning question: What am I going to make for dinner?