Congratulations to Edith on the release of Judge Thee Not, the fifth book in the Quaker Midwife mystery series. Here’s a bit about the book: No stranger to judgmental attitudes in her small town of Amesbury, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is nonetheless stunned when society matron Mayme Settle publicly snubs her good friend Bertie for her nontraditional lifestyle. When Mrs. Settle is later found murdered—and a supposed witness insists Bertie was spotted near the scene of the crime—the police have no choice but to set their sights on the slighted woman as their main suspect.
Rose is certain her friend is innocent of the heinous deed, and when Rose isn’t busy tending to her duties as midwife, she enlists the help of a blind pregnant client—who’s endured her own share of prejudice—to help her sift through the clues. As the two uncover a slew of suspects tied to financial intrigues, illicit love, and an age-old grudge over perceived wrongs, Rose knows she’ll have to bring all her formidable intelligence to bear on solving the crime. Because circumstantial evidence can loom large in small minds, and she fears her friend will soon become the victim of a grave injustice . . .
In Judge Thee Not Edith introduces a new character, Jeannette Papka, a blind pregnant client. It’s always fun to introduce a new character, give a new beginning, and see how they impact the story. So Wickeds, how do new characters come to you?
Edith: Thank you, Sherry! I modeled Jeanette on my friend Jeanne, but it’s rare for me to base a character on a real person. And of course right away the character diverged from the real person. In my WIP, which happens to be the next Quaker Midwife Mystery, I’m struggling with a new character who seems flat (actually, too villainous…). I need to get to know him better so my readers can, too.
Jessie: Like Edith I don’t tend to base characters on anyone specifically. A rare exception was a pair of sisters in my Change of Fortune series who were inspired by one of my great-grandmothers and her younger sister. I am not really sure where the characters come from. Sometimes they spring out of the time and place in which I set the story. Most often, especially major characters like Beryl and Edwina simply arrive and wish to chat. It doesn’t feel like I made those characters up but rather like they were waiting for someone to be paying attention on the right wavelength to hear their voices and to want to get to know them.
Julie: Jessie, I love the idea of paying attention to the right wavelength. Yes, I agree! I’ve been thinking a lot about the magical powers of writing lately. I will have an idea–of a cranky Yankee on a committee–and then I’ll let the magic happen. After a bit the character comes to life. I’ve never been one to sit down and write every detail about that person in order to get them on the page. As I get to know them, the details get filled in. Details like what kind of donuts they like may not matter in the book, but it does matter when I’m thinking about them. I love meeting new characters, even when they take over the book unexpectedly.
Sherry: Congratulations on the new book, Edith! I don’t write out long character descriptions either, Julie. And I’ll never forget the first time I heard Jessie talking about Beryl and Edwina because it was as if she was on the right wave-length with them. It is the magic of writing. Since I’m working on the first book in the new series I’m writing lots of new characters — some loosely base on people I know. Like Edith, I’m having trouble with a character who is too flat but in my case it’s the antagonist. I guess that’s why they say all writing is rewriting!
Barb: In the Maine Clambake Mysteries the Snugg sisters and Gus are based on real people, but I rarely do that. Sometimes characters to me come full blown with exactly the right name, looks, mannerisms, way of speaking. Other times creating a character is a tedious process of writing and writing until I understand who the character is.
Edith: Thanks, friends! After I wrote my bit here, I realized my flat character used to raise Irish wolfhound puppies with his mother when he was younger, so thanks for the prod to fill him out a bit.
Readers: Do you think you can tell when you read if a character is based on someone real? If they arrived to the author like a lightning bolt or required a ton of work to develop? What do you think?