Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Choosing Favorites (Mary Strand)

This month, we’re blogging about our favorite character ... in a book we wrote.

I hate choosing favorites, whether it’s in characters I’ve written or friends of mine or music (Eagles, Eagles, Eagles) or books or movies or whatever.

But I will.

My characters usually feature pieces of me scattered through them in random combinations.  For instance, almost all of my protagonists are athletes, although very few of them play my favorite sport: basketball.  The heroine of the series I’m currently writing plays basketball, though, and shares so MANY pieces of me that my husband laughed when he read the first manuscript in the series and said he couldn’t tell the two of us apart.

Even though one of us is only 15.

My Bennet Sisters YA series involves a modern collision between Pride and Prejudice and five Minnesota sisters who have the bad luck to be named Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Lydia Bennet.

I’ve always thought, since I first read Pride and Prejudice at age 15, that Elizabeth Bennet was basically me.  Hey, my middle name is even Elizabeth.  The fact that thousands if not millions of other women have ALSO thought that Jane Austen created Elizabeth Bennet with THEM in mind is entirely irrelevant.  ha ha.

But, um, really.  Lizzie Bennet = Mary Strand.  End of equation.

When I wrote my modern-day Liz Bennet, in Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras, it only cemented my opinion.  To make it even more clear, my Liz is a tomboy who plays sports, loves classic rock and cherry Dilly bars, and often dresses like a slob.

Me, me, me.

In the original Pride and Prejudice, and in all of the P&P movies, I never liked Lydia.  Who did, right?  She was a spoiled brat and pretty much got what she deserved.  (Which is what should’ve happened to Amy March in Little Women, and didn’t, but I digress.)

I had the same opinion about my own Lydia Bennet when I wrote Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras, and it didn’t change when I wrote Mary’s and Cat’s respective books.  In fact, my bad-to-the-bone Lydia makes Jane Austen’s Lydia look like a rookie.

The problem: I knew that the last book of my Bennet Sisters series would be Lydia’s book, Livin’ La Vida Bennet.  Which meant I had to identify with Lydia, the protagonist, and make readers identify with her and hopefully love her, AND give Lydia a YA version of a happily-ever-after.

I shared the truth with a good friend: I really wasn’t sure I could write a book about a heroine who’s bad to the bone.

My friend laughed.

She then reminded me that I’ve developed a Facebook persona in which I’m (mildly) bad to the bone and suggested I knew a thing or two about it.  Or, say, a million things about it.

Bingo.

And so it was that Lydia was born.  My Lydia.  She wound up sharing parts of my personality that don’t often appear in public, or at least not since I practiced law.  She’s tough as nails.  She’s fierce but funny.  She’s smart.  I even gave her a sport so she could truly be like me.  Ultimately, I both respected her and got a real kick out of her.  In Livin’ La Vida Bennet (but not a moment sooner), she became my favorite character in the series.

And, you know, bad girls (and guys) deserve happy endings, too.  Maybe because, deep inside, bad and good and sweet and salty and everything else that makes each of us unique is worth taking a closer look at.  Or maybe we simply all deserve to be happy.

No matter what.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.

4 comments:

  1. There are times I think swapping out realities(?) with our characters for a bit might be the ultimate therapy.

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    1. Great point, Berek! I think I engage in that sort of swapping all the time.

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  2. I love the point you end on here--the closer we look, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more we like.

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    1. Thanks, Holly! I didn't realize the point I was making until the very end of my post, but the truth is that the world would be a far better place if we all took a closer look at other people and not leap to snap judgments.

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