Reader Question: Are Your Characters Based on Real People?

February 10, 2020

 

Reader question: I’d love to know how much your characters are based on real people? I feel like Jane is based on you? - Lesa Renee

 

Some characters – yes, absolutely. Others, not so much. I try to avoid law suits whenever possible. 

 

I've always been a writer. When the time came to actually complete a manuscript, instead of just talking about it in a someday fashion, I knew it had to the romance genre that had hooked me from an early age. My first finished manuscript was completed sometime in those heady early married days when all I had to do was work one job and come home to a house occupied by one other (rather tidy) adult. It will never see the light of day, because it was, in a word – terrible. 

 

To be honest, I can’t even remember much of the storyline as it was almost twenty years ago. Historical western romances seemed like the thing to do because I was reading a lot of them at the time. I remember being very careful not to inject too much of my own voice or personality into the main character because I’d taken a few creative writing classes in college and the general wisdom was that it was an annoying and immature writing habit to create a “self-insert” character. When I submitted the manuscript to agents (still cringing to this day), several commented that the heroine was a blank slate, very little personality of her own, just reacting to the situations and people around her. And acted without real motivation. And was sort of boring. 

 

Ultimately, the book was not salvageable and at the time, I had that pragmatic reporter mindset of “if it doesn’t work, junk it.”(As a working author that writes 2-3 books a year now, the idea of tossing an entire book makes me want to weep.) And I didn’t write another book for several years, until I NEEDED to write another book – because our apartment was slowly driving me insane. (Long story, lots of breaking appliances and a plague of frogs in the toilet.) 

 

I was in mourning for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That show meant a lot to me as there were finally voices on TV that sounded like mine - weird, snarky, relentlessly hopeful. I knew I wanted to write a paranormal romance. Having learned my lesson with my first book, I decided to write a vampire story from my own perspective, where the heroine – for the most part - reacts to situations and other characters the way I would. Jane Jameson is snarky, sometimes socially awkward, obsessed with books and has a head stuffed with random trivia. She can be single-minded. She overreacts and makes hasty, ill-advised decisions some times … a lot of the time. 

 

And while I didn’t realize it at the time, Dick Cheney (the vampire) is based on my husband. Obviously, he’s never sold counterfeit jeans out of the back of his car. But while David is very buttoned-up, respectable and super-professional outside the home, when it’s just the two of us, he’s the funniest guy I know. His sense of humor is quick, biting and wildly inappropriate. He’s loyal and protective and he will wear the snarky t-shirts… if I buy them for him. Fortunately, he doesn’t make the mistakes Dick makes… or have Dick’s criminal history. I can’t emphasize that enough. Not a criminal. 

 

I didn't do this on purpose, but looking back years later, I see the similarities and it makes sense. Dick is probably my favorite character in the series, and I defined him using the characteristics of my favorite person on the planet. 

 

As far as the friendships my characters enjoy, that's a whole post unto itself that I'll write sometime soon. 

 

Since readers responded so kindly to Jane, I’ve injected a bit of myself into most of my heroines over the years. Iris in THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES represents the “parent” side of my personality and how much I worry about my kids. Maggie in THE ART OF SEDUCING A NAKED WEREWOLF represents my occasional emotional immaturity and bad temper. (It’s rare, but it’s there, and when it comes out, it’s a thing to behold.) Frankie in AIN’T SHE A PEACH is definitely a representation of my quirkiness and pop culture obsessions. Jillian in HOW TO DATE YOUR DRAGON probably represents how seriously I take my job, how much I enjoy studying other cultures. Also, maybe my fixation on bald men. 

 

Of course, a lot of my characters are nothing at all like me. I’m not as serene as Andrea. I’ll never be as competent as Sonja. And I’m not as smart as Gigi. Either way, the best and the worst of me, usually ends up on the page. Except for the characters who kill people. Or eat olives. Or ice skate.

 

 

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