My characters are MY characters. I made them up. I wrote them down. They exist in my head and on my hard drive. They aren’t living, breathing people that take over my mind. They aren’t my babies or children or friends. No flesh, no blood, just ink and pixels and paper and screens.
Delia, my heroine in Stone Kissed secretly loves the oldies—Duran Duran, the DiVinyls, Laura Branigan, the Violent Femmes and more—classic music from the 70s and 80s. (Yes, I know. But she’s in her mid-twenties and I am not, so in her mind, these are “oldies.” I forgive her for that and so should you.) The music her mother loved ties her to her dead mother, who used to sing “Gloria” to her, but replace the title with Delia’s name. It was the only way Mrs. Forrest even obliquely acknowledged Delia’s ability to talk to statues. I know this, and now you do, too. Most of the book’s readers, however, will never know the story behind the story because I cut those scenes.
I took down the bust of Eisenhower from Delia’s attorney’s office. He was a snarky, snotty, nasty piece of marble and I dearly loved him. But since all he did in early drafts was dump information, he had to go. When Delia was very young–well before the book begins–a carving reveals that the butcher next door to her parents’ apartment is abusing his wife. It was a tight, quiet scene. I wept writing it. I wept rereading it. And I shed a couple tears because it didn’t forward the plot and had to go.
Characters, scenes and plot threads from earlier versions of Stone Kissed still exist in the back of my head, although I am ruthless about cleaning them out of my computer. Unless I can specifically use them in another work, I don’t save excisions. I know many writers advocate filing these snippets for future use, but I just can’t. When I decide to kill a character, he must remain dead. When I decide to burn a bridge, I walk away from the embers, never to go back.
And yet, sometimes I DO go back because readers take me there. Readers fill in blanks, identify patterns and motifs, and tell me things about my characters. When My critique partners, beta readers and reviewers with advanced reader copies weigh in, I find myself learning even more about Delia, Grant, the statues and the town of Stewardsville.
Books aren’t just vehicles by which writers inject stories into readers. Your imagination and reasoning skills come into play as well. You see aspects of my characters I didn’t realize I’d written. You make connections between events and characters I didn’t even know were there. You bring them to life.
Thank you for the story.