Which character was your favourite, and why?
That’s like asking which of my pets is my favourite! I love little Megge, of course. I feel tenderness and concern for her, even when I’m not working on the book. She still has a long way to go, and even I don’t know how things will turn out for her.
I would love to have known Morwen in person. She has such depth of character, such compassion for Megge, and such low tolerance for BS. She’s wry, educated, articulate, and tough.
What kinds of fictional villains do you love to hate the most?
Villains who don’t realize they are villains, or who, though they do their best not to be villains don’t seem able to be anything else. They believe that their agenda, or the quest they are on, gives them the authority to do whatever they deem necessary to accomplish it. The end always justifies the means in their mind. These are often small-scale villains who torment and ruin one innocent life.
Who is your favorite fictional villain?
Nurse Annie Wilkes in Misery is one good example; but for my money, it would be Gunnar Royal, the uncle in Kim Michele Richardson’s GodPretty in the Tobacco Field. Gunnar, a former executioner for the state of Kentucky, strives to be a good Christian man but cannot seem to grasp that he is abusing RubyLyn, the niece in his charge, even as he tries to keep her on the straight and narrow. You can almost see the man he is trying to be, but the man he can’t stop being just won’t get out of his way.
What type of hero is your favorite?
The kind that isn’t trying to be a hero and whom most people wouldn’t see as one. The kind who is trying to make the best of a tough situation, who has to muddle through and who makes mistakes along the way. Who really wants to take the easier way but knows deep down that that won’t do.
Favorite fictional heroes?
Quoyle, the protagonist of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, is one. Despite his inauspicious ancestry, his lack of looks and smarts, and his dire financial situation, he manages to make it through life without intentionally hurting anyone. He plugs along. He works. He makes do and tries to make things a little better. He makes friends. And, somehow, he makes his life work. What’s that if not some kind of hero?
Does it ever happen that your character just decides to do her own thing?
That’s all they ever do. I’m just along for the ride.
How do you create your characters?
I don’t. They create themselves. They show up full-blown, with their own voices and with likes, dislikes, abilities, quirks, and backstory that I have to learn by letting the story move along.
Are there real-life doubles for them?
None of my characters are based on people I know, but some have characteristics that remind me of people. Morwen, for instance, reminds me in some ways of my great-grandmother. Her relationship with Megge reminds me a little of our relationship.
If a movie were to be made of your book, who would you like to see play your main characters?
I’m not sure who would play most of the characters, but Vanessa Redgrave could play Aleydis. Anjelica Huston could play Agnes Gough.
How much of you is there in the main character?
Perhaps Megge and I have in common her stubbornness and the fact that she’s always hungry.
Does the author know everything there is to know about the characters?
I don’t know about other authors, but I’m always learning about mine. That’s one of the things I like best about writing: all the things that come to light about characters I thought I knew.
Which of your fictional villains did you enjoy writing most and why?
Agnes Gough has been fun to write. Aggie. She is just so nasty. I’m waiting to learn something about her that isn’t just awful, and I hope I do; but so far? Nothing. She’s just bad.
Vivienne Penneck was also fun. But then I learned who she really was and felt bad about what happened to her.
Now, Tinker Penneck is the one who most intrigues me, and I’m learning more about him as I write the sequel. Megge knows Tinker as cold, angry, and seeking retribution for a wrong done to someone else. But part of his past was lived away from the village, and he may have a secret soft spot. We’ll see.
Who are your favorite characters in your own fiction?
In my short fiction, there are a couple of unnamed characters I loved: the two patients in the flash fiction piece, “302”. Even years after writing that piece, those two still touch my heart.
I also have a soft spot for the protagonist of the short story “Mama’s Girl”