When I write a novel or story, it doesn’t really belong to me. It belongs to the characters telling the story. Sure, I often write in the third person so that I seem to be observing. But I’m just the spokesperson for the vast array of characters that live–okay, I’m busted. I create them all in my head. Every single one.
How weird is that? That our brains can contain not just people, but entire universes that never exist until we start talking about them or writing about them. I would suggest that it’s not just my fellow writers and me who do this. I bet you do it, too. Do you ever look at someone in the grocery store, or in the next car, and wonder who they are and where they’ve been, and what their life is like? You can play Sherlock and pick up clues: What condition are their shoes in? Are they wearing a wedding ring? Do they have tattoos that illustrate something intriguing or obvious? Do they seem harried, or sad? But while Sherlock makes his deductions sound totally believable, he’s a fiction himself. Unless we talk to the person we’re observing, or follow them (don’t do that!), or stalk them online (don’t do that, either!), then the personality we create for them is probably almost entirely fictional.
See how easy it is?
When I began writing Charlotte’s Story, I started with a house (Bliss House, of course) and this picture of Kim Novak.
Charlotte Bliss looks a lot like the Kim Novak of 1955: slender and blond, charming, innocent–but not too. I love the glimmer of uncertainty in her gaze in this picture, the vulnerability. Charlotte is a couple of inches taller than Kim Novak, and the clothes she wears aren’t as chic as the clothes that the actress wore in her most famous films. Charlotte is a young mother, and so her vulnerability is suffused with the mysterious strength that somehow shows up when pregnancy hormones start kicking in. She has much to lose–her family. Herself.
Charlotte’s story is first a story of loss: loss of one of her children, loss of her confidence, loss of the life she thought she had. (That’s where the house comes in. Bliss House never lets you see reality. Never the whole picture.) She has to learn what the realities of her life are before she can start rebuilding it again. I fell in love with her voice as I learned her story. Sometimes it broke my heart, sometimes it scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t wait to know how this part of her life was going to turn out.
Charlotte’s Story is the second novel in my Bliss House series. But you don’t have to read Bliss House first. In fact, I would encourage you to read it before you read Bliss House. Each book is a portrait of the house in a particular time. Charlotte’s Story is set in 1957, Bliss House is set in our present. The Abandoned Heart, which I’m working on right now, will tell of the beginnings of the house and the Bliss family. Each book adds to the history and life of Bliss House. Because Bliss House was the very first character that showed up, and is central to every one of these books (and Cold Alone, the short story). So I guess we can conclude that–not only do I have a whole lot of people living in my head, but I have at least one very haunted house up there, too.