In the final stages of polishing my novel, I had an epiphany. Many of the pre-readers of The Senator's Youngest Daughter had drawn the conclusion that my protagonist Brenna was me, that her husband Tate was my husband Matt, that her mom Denise was my mom Debbie, that her dad August was my dad Steve, that her sister Esther was my sister Caryn, and so on. (My other sister Laure will interject her sadness here that she and her husband together are some sort of weird collective amalgamation in Ike and Reese).
Obviously, they're wrong. Just because I happened to have written about someone who's similar in personality and looks and home state and family circumstances doesn't mean it's me, right? Just because there are a hundred other similarities between my family/friends and my book characters doesn't mean they're them, right?
Back to my epiphany. I had decided to give Brenna red hair. Their last name is McFerren, after all. So why is she blonde? It's only real relevance in the book is that her dad calls her "Blondie'. So, BOOM, Brenna's a redhead and then no one will think she's me, right? August can call her Red. Problem solved!
Now is the time to watch the Mystery Men clip I've included above. The relevant part of the script is:
Mr. Furious: Lance Hunt IS Captain Amazing!
The Shoveller: Oh, here we go...Don't start that AGAIN. Lance Hunt wears glasses, Captain Amazing DOESN'T wear glasses.
Mr. Furious: He takes them off when he transforms.
The Shoveller: That doesn't make any sense, he wouldn't be able to see!
Case in point: Changing the hair color/optical prescription needs doesn't change who you are. Life lessons from a Ben Stiller movie.
Fortunately, my sister saved me from the redhead idea. (Not that there's anything wrong with gingers, everybody settle down.) She pointed out that the similarities between Kelley and Brenna were far deeper than hair color. And what's wrong with writing a version of myself into my first novel? And my family? And settings I know?
It started out as a way to keep track of the characters. Characters had similar names to people in my family so it was easier to remember the relationship. But then my characters started to look, act, talk, and think like them, too. (What can I say, I have a smart family and we spend a lot of time together. Therefore, so does Brenna.)
I was embarrassed when I began to realize how many correlations I found. It even made some of the readers who knew me uncomfortable when they were picturing me and my hubby instead of two book characters when their marriage was showing. (wink)
Nonetheless, The Senator's Youngest Daughter, in all its life-reflecting-life glory is my offering to the world, directly from my brain to my reader's eyes. They're probably blue, since mine are blue. And I only write what I know.