On Showing Your Characters Who Is Boss:
The problem with people that exist only in your head is that eventually, they become real to you.
I’ve been working with the characters of Half-Moon Hollow longer than I’ve worked with any other “cast” of fictional friends. Vampire librarian Jane Jameson was the first heroine I’ve ever successfully brought to life, and her wacky band of brethren are very dear to me. Each of her friends was designed with a specific task or role in Jane’s life. Hunky sire Gabriel saves Jane from a life half-lived. Her human best friend, Zeb, keeps Jane in touch with her human side. The not-quite-reputable vampire Dick Cheney prevents her from taking herself too seriously.
I can only compare returning to Half-Moon Hollow for each sequel to hanging out with your friends from university. The early times that I spent with them were golden. I was just learning about the publishing world, myself as a writer, and we grew so much together. Years later, sitting down and “talking” with the characters puts me right back in that time and place, and its very easy to fall back into that conversational rhythm. The drawback is that, much like old friends, I spend a little too much time worrying about what they think of me.
I spent days agonizing over the appropriately awful color for the bridesmaids’ dresses in Zeb’s wedding. I wrote and re-wrote a scene in which Jane is injured with vampire pepper spray, because I was afraid I was being too rough with her. I cried for two days when I wrote a central character’s death scene.
And one night, while I was working revisions for the third book, NICE GIRLS DON’T LIVE FOREVER, I dreamt that I was walking into my living room and found Gabriel, Dick and Jane sitting on the couch. They were as I'd always imagined them and they were sitting just a few feet away – looking really irritated with me.
Gabriel cleared his throat and kind of gave the other two this look, as if to say, "Why do I have to be the one to do this sort of thing?" And then he held my hand and explained that we'd all been together for a few years now, and it was "great, really great" in that sad break-up tone of voice. But, he said, now that the third book was finished, they’d all agreed that it was time for the three of them to move on and do other things. Jane, who had become more and more angry during this exchange, exploded and yelled at me for making money off of living vicariously through her and putting her in dangerous, humiliating situations for laughs.
I told them that I still needed them, which seemed to make them happy. But then I added that I needed them because the third book still needed rewrites, which made them angry all over again. Dick yelled that he was going to go work on a vampire project where he would be appreciated and "Good luck with those rewrites when you don't have me around to be your funny dancing monkey-clown anymore!" And they all walked out!
I woke up with tears streaming down my cheeks. It’s at times like this that my husband has to gently remind me, “They’re not real people, sweetheart.”
But they are to me. Authors hurt when their characters hurt. We take joy in their triumphs and mourn when we have to bid them goodbye. And when certain vampires get too full of themselves, sometimes I have to write a scene in which they are trapped in a well while their author and Creator lectures them on respect and appropriate behavior.
I eventually let them out.