What do you
do when a character takes over and develops a mind of her own?
last time Sydney and I saw Ruth was in her kitchen. She’d attempted to make
breakfast, since her housekeeper had the day off. She rooted around in her
refrigerator, pulled out a mysterious green-gelled mass floating in a bowl, and
sat it next to a plate of vanilla wafers. As she poured weak coffee into her Wedgewood
china cups, she ticked off reasons she should accompany Sydney to Hot Springs,
Arkansas. Sydney dodged Ruth’s plea with evasion and a few lies and left her
cousin’s house in Dallas before she could worm her way into the car. So when we
saw Ruth setting in the lobby of the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas
the next day, drinking a martini and looking like she’d just stepped off the
cover of Vogue, I was shocked. Sydney
was mildly surprised.
had not planned on her being here,” I told Sydney. “What am I going to do with
“Well, you created my dear cousin and you have to deal with her,”
Sydney chuckled. “But I must warn you, she won’t go away.”
this juncture, my first mystery Murder at
the Arlington, in fact my entire series, took a difference path. Ruth
Echland, my protagonist’s wealthy, socialite-cousin, became a major player and
partner in Sydney’s crime-solving exploits, and I quickly learned that when a
character demands my attention I’d better listen. Like Sydney said they, “won’t
I've come to enjoy, and even eagerly await the arrival of these surprise characters. I'm not sure where they come from, but they're all necessary to my stories, and most often entertaining. When Marcella Wheatly arrived at the Luther Hotel in Sydney's next story, Murder at the Luther, I noticed a resemblance I couldn't quite place. When Ruth told me who Marcella really was, I couldn't have been more shocked had my own long-lost sister arrived on my doorstep. Then there is Ramsey Strump, Wilson Matthews, Reverend Tallwood, Emma Fogmore, Brewster Fallow, Buddy Leech, the list is endless. In fact, I envision a huge room filled with characters just waiting for the right time to make their appearance in my stories. They arrived, complete with name tags, quirky personalities, dossiers, and full cases of clothes. And I love 'em all, even the mischievous ones.