Lori Roberts Herbst, author of Frozen in Motion, a Callie Cassidy Mystery, is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to tell us about creating her characters.
Welcome, Lori. I’ll turn the floor over to you –
I gave birth last year.
I am fifty-nine years old, yet I produced not one, not two, but over two dozen human beings—not to mention a dog and a cat. Oh, and an entire village…
The extended labor was intensive and, from my perspective, the births were nothing short of miraculous. As Athena sprang forth in full armor from Zeus’ head, the people of my clan clawed their way from my mind and onto the computer screen, emerging as adults who had gestated in the womb of my brain for many months.
Some of these “children” are older than I am. Some of them are more fully developed than their counterparts. Some are more difficult to love than their siblings. And spoiler alert: some have already passed through my world and departed.
This is what it’s like to be a cozy mystery writer.
A friend asked me recently how it felt to create characters. Do I feel as if I know them? she asked. Are they based on real people?
I admit I had given little thought to the process until she posed the question. Like a toddler standing wide-eyed next to a spilled glass of milk, it just happened. Characters who hadn’t existed before were suddenly alive in my imagination, taking shape and adding layers of flesh and personality with each passing day.
I focused on them a lot—still do. When I go to bed at night, they sometimes keep me awake with their conversations, their problems, their dreams. As I drive to the store, they confide their deepest desires. It’s akin to dissociative disorder, I suspect, except that I am never overtaken by them. They are with me, but they are not me.
And that brings me to the second question: Are your characters based on real people?
To a degree, I suppose they must be. How could I create human beings, even fictional ones, without knowing and internalizing human qualities from people I know in the real world?
Callie Cassidy, the protagonist of my current series, shares a few traits with her creator. Her idealism sometimes results in despair, and she occasionally grapples with impatience (all right, more than occasionally). Sometimes when Callie speaks (especially when she is being sarcastic), I hear my voice. But the similarities between us are less obvious than the differences. Callie proceeds more boldly than I do, and she takes risks I would never even consider. She is as unique as each of my real-life daughters; like them, she may have initially learned how to look at the world at my knee, but now she thinks independently and makes her own decisions.
Maggie, Callie’s mother, is about the same age as my mother was when she died, so it is understandable that traces of Mom’s quirkiness bubble into Maggie’s psyche. When Butch, Callie’s father, runs outside in the freezing winter weather to warm up her car, it’s something my father would have done. And the gentle good-naturedness and smoldering good looks attributed to Sam, Callie’s on-again-off-again (then on-again) boyfriend, obviously evolve from my own handsome, long-suffering husband.
So the short answer is this: if I am acquainted with you, part of you either has or will someday worm its way into one of my characters. Whether that should serve as a source of anticipation or apprehension, I leave to you.
As characters incubate in my imagination, I try to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote, “There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.” I hope you’ll come to experience my Rock Creek Village children as I do: a group of flawed individuals who are trying the best way they know to wrest a modicum of happiness out of life.
Some of them just find more socially acceptable—and legal—ways of doing so than others.
I can’t wait for you to meet them.
Thank you for giving readers an insight into how your characters develop, Lori, and good luck with Frozen in Motion, a Callie Cassidy mystery.
The novel is available online at Amazon.
About Lori Roberts Herbst: Lori is the author of the Callie Cassidy Mystery series. Her debut novel, Suitable for Framing, won first place in the Murder and Mayhem category at the 2020 Chanticleer International Book Awards. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and serves as secretary of the North Dallas chapter. She is also a member of the national Guppy chapter and Mystery Writers of America. A former educator, Lori spent much of her life writing, editing, and psychoanalyzing. Through thirty years of teaching journalism, advising newspaper and yearbook staffs, instructing budding photographers, and counseling teenagers, she still managed to hang on to a modicum of sanity. Then she retired and assumed her third career: author.