Yesterday, Deb Joanne started off our week of Mothers with a wonderful tribute to our own Deb Mom Marcia. So today, I’m veering into the world of fictional moms—specifically those I’ve written.
In LITTLE GALE GUMBO, Camille Bergeron is mother to two very different daughters. I won’t say I modeled the relationships on my experience as one of two daughters and a mother who is very close to both of us, but it certainly gave me insight to how a mother can relate differently to her children (daughters in this case). As a writer, this fascinates me. And in writing Camille’s story, I was writing that of her daughters, too. Eldest daughter Dahlia is fiery and willful, wanting to push the envelope at every turn. Youngest daughter Josie is just the opposite: reserved and emotionally fragile. Camille is the glue that holds them together (and often in check)—so it was important to let her qualities help define those of her daughters. Her calm and quiet determination, her emotional strength and firm sense of loyalty always managed to help the sisters see through whatever issues they may have had with one another. But there’s no question that Camille’s relationship with each daughter is different: with Dahlia, she is supportive but allows Dahlia sufficient trust and independence. For Josie, Camille is much more motherly. Josie is so very attached to her mother, and always tries to keep the piece with her volatile father as a way to protect Camille. Josie also seeks her mother’s approval and is eager to emulate her cooking as well as learn her mother’s voodoo practices. Dahlia, by contrast, can’t stand to cook, has no faith or patience in voodoo, and does everything she can to avoid being the prisoner of love that she sees Camille as being. One mother–two interpretations of her through the eyes of two daughters.
So when it came time to write my next novel, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, which releases in October, I wrote a very different mother character. Ruby shares little with Camille, except for her love of vibrant color and lush landscapes. Where Camille was emotionally strong and always the head of her family, Ruby is herself a child and utterly enslaved by her emotions and her inability to control them. Her daughter, the novel’s heroine Tess, spends her youth acting as the parent to her mentally-unstable mother until Ruby drowns when Tess is sixteen. Their mother-daughter relationship was often harder to write than Camille and her daughters, because Ruby couldn’t provide the traditional model of mothering that Camille could. Still, Ruby is loving and warm and nurturing in the best way she can be—I simply had to find ways to reveal those qualities within the framework of a desperately fragile person.
I think we can all agree that mothers are infinitely fascinating characters to write and to read—they come with layers built-in, just waiting to be peeled away. I’m already at work on a new WIP, and yes, another mother, different in her own ways…
So tell me: what are some literary mothers who have fascinated you? (They needn’t be endearing or well-behaved either—let’s face it! The most fascinating ones usually aren’t!)