I’ve been asked this question many times. Just as when I’m reading books, I also have favorite characters when I’m writing. Often, it’s not the protagonist. I love developing villains. Perhaps I have a mean side to me. Maybe I enjoy watching how the character messes with the protagonist’s life.
In one story I’m writing, the villain is a narcissistic man who destroys everyone’s life with whom he comes into contact. His name is Talon. Appropriate, huh? In my current book, the villain’s name is Violet, because it sounds close to violent—and she is.
I got off subject. I’m addressing my favorite character in my latest novel, Bed, Breakfast & Bedbugs which will be released March 22. That’s next week!
What’s this book about? Leora Van Leer, a commitment-challenged woman who can’t stay in one place is forced to do just that when her inheritance is contingent on her living for a whole year in her late grandmother’s B&B called Blossom Inlet. She’s tired of moving from one job to another. She misses her home, except for her evil mother, Violet. Most of all, she wants to honor her grandmother’s wishes and keep the Van Leer legacy alive. After all, five generations of women have lived at Blossom Inlet. Then there’s this other thing. She’s also responsible for three quirky residents who come along with the B&B.
I love all the characters in the story, but I enjoyed developing Miss Sophie the most. She is one of the peculiar guests Leora inherited. Well, she’s not really a guest. She’s lived at Blossom Inlet since Leora was six—when Izzy (that’s the deceased grandmother) converted her large home to a B&B. Izzy and Miss Sophie were childhood friends who remained close over the years. To Leora, she’s family.
Miss Sophie has Alzheimer’s and has serious moments, humorous moments, and sad ones. I enjoyed developing her complex character so much. I had to consider her age of eighty-two (not that far off from my age) and her medical condition as well. There’s also that beautiful, wise, present side of her. She drifts in and out of the now and says some pretty sassy things. Sassy is a great word to describe her. You’ve heard the term full of piss and vinegar? That’s Miss Sophie. Even though she deals with memory issues, the woman is still full of energy and spunk.
If something goes through her mind, it comes out of her mouth. If she thinks someone is wrong, she doesn’t mind telling them. She bakes the better scones and pies than anyone around and refuses to reveal her secret recipes. We know she bakes with blackberry brandy, whiskey, Bailey’s Irish Cream, amaretto, and most likely, any other alcohol she can get her hands on. Sometimes, she actually gets some in her baked goods.
This is when Leora first noticed something was off with Miss Sophie.
~Suddenly, Sophie seemed to shift into someone else. She stopped talking and began reading the print on the cereal box. “Family size. One box equals one full… They’re gr-r-reat.” In a few seconds, and without breaking her cadence, she resumed her story. “They all conspired against Izzy, but she held her ground. You know how hardheaded she is.”
Another example. Miss Sophie knew her friend Izzy had passed.
~Instead of sharing more, Miss Sophie’s eyes glazed over. She stared somewhere beyond Leora, perhaps through her. “When’s Izzy coming home? I need to cook dinner. She loves my pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy.” Miss Sophie stood and ambled toward her room.
This is a serious excerpt, showing how Miss Sophie knew what was going on.
~“I hate this for you, Miss Sophie. I fear your mind will go to that other place one day and not come back.”
“No one fears that more than me. Do you have any idea what it’s like moving from one place to another and not understanding why? One minute, I’m right here. Right now. And then.” She snapped her fingers. “Poof, I’m someone else or a younger version of myself.” She paused. “Other times, I don’t know who I am. It’s as if my words and memories are all smeared on the inside of my skull.” She pointed to her head. “No matter how hard I try, I can’t put the right ones together in the right order. Like a jigsaw puzzle and none of the pieces fit.”
Here’s a great example of Miss Sophie saying whatever she thinks. (Priscilla is Leora’s VW Bus.)
“Are we going to the Dollar Store?” Miss Sophie asked.
Before Leora could answer, Priscilla’s right front tire plopped into a pothole. Leora’s right arm swung across Miss Sophie to protect her.
“I’m not a baby.” She pushed Leora’s arm away. “You need to get rid of this piece of junk. That jolt tossed me so high, my girl parts shot all the way up to my chest. I won’t be able to tell when I’m having a heart attack or an orgasm.”
This is what I think Sassy Sophie looks like. What do you think?
My mother and stepmother-in-law had Alzheimer’s. We lost them one memory at a time. Although the memory loss saddened and confused them, they laughed at themselves. Some things Miss Sophie says came from my mother and stepmother. They would enjoy the story. I wish they were still here to read the book.
In writing this character, it was not my intent to make light of this dreaded disease. I honor every person who has gone through or is going through it and also their family and friends.
Bed, Breakfast & Bedbugs is the first book in the Blossom Inlet Series. Although it’s about family drama with abandonment, secrets, lies, and tragedy, there’s a lot of happiness and love also. Of course, you all know I can’t write without throwing in my Southern humor.
Thanks to all who encourage and support me. I appreciate you.
Hugs and warm wishes to all of you.