July 25, 2016

Which Character Are You Most Like?: a guest post by Kelley Kaye, author of "Death by Diploma"

Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends.

Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest.

As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.

One of the normal questions I get when I am doing an interview for a blogger is "which character are you most like?" and today I am thinking about that. Usually I say I am most like Emma, my main character. But today I think I feel (!) like I look for the very best and very worst of me and everyone around me when I am choosing idiosyncrasies for my characters. I pick the most noticeable ones and disperse them throughout my character landscape. For example, let's talk about the librarian, Edward Dixon. Edward gives the term anal-retentive a bad name, but he has this huge heart, and I might love him the most.

My heart breaks every time he minces across a room or says something particularly geeky, or his owl-eyes pop out of his head when Leslie says 'Fuck' (which really she does quite often, but because this is a cozy mystery, I have to cleverly allude to that master swear word instead of stating it outright. Which is a whole 'nother blog unto itself.) Anyway, I think Edward is a part of me and people I know when we felt most left out on the playground, or in the tryouts for the sports team, or waiting to be asked to the dance. Poor Edward lives perpetually in that world!

And… Let's see. Let's talk about Charlie Foreman, the jerk of a coach who is the superintendent's son, who gets everything he wants because he is the superintendent' son. See, I was also an acting teacher when I taught high school English, and it was sort of a built-in rivalry, or annoyance, between the artsy-fartsy teachers and the coaches--we thought they were mysogynistic and clueless, and they thought we were pretentious and condescending. Which some of them were and some of we were, I'm sure, but this character of Charlie took two of the worst coaches I knew and mashed them together into one big douchey sandwich.

Probably I should've been more careful and self-aware about this. My mean characters are much more one-dimensional than the nice ones, and I make the excuse that it's for the sake of the light-hearted cozy, but really I just don't like 'em. Prefer to give 'em less screen time. I’d much rather spend twenty pages talking about Edward and his ‘banned’ list (he bans kids from the library when they don’t respect books enough, and he keeps this ever-expanding list on the corkboard behind his desk) than about Charlie and his sexist jokes and his desire for Leslie Parker to ‘Parker” self over on his lap. But I dunno, that joke is kinda funny. I laughed a little bit when I wrote it.

So I feel my characters are all like me, and hopefully a little bit like you and you and you and YOU, at our best and worst and most fascinating moments.

I’d love to hear your views… Until next time: Stay Mystified!

Kelley Kaye

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