Deidre McIntosh, the 40-something cooking-and-lifestyle maven of my debut novel, GOOD THINGS, is my second protagonist. Third, if you want to nit pick, since my first unpublished novel, TERRACOTTA WOMEN, flipped between the POV of two sisters, Anna and Amelia Chi (Deb Anna, how’s that for a small world?!).
We won’t get into the whoosie-whatsit of that book, but suffice it to say that I exorcised a few demons with those two characters. Let’s see … they were Chinese-American (like me – check!), one of them worked overseas in Asia (check!), one of them was a management consultant (check!), one of them was a writer (check!), one of them was ambivalent about relationships (check!), one of them had to deal with getting pregnant and managing work (check!), they both had an interesting set of parents (check!), and they were both competitive and slightly insecure (check, check and double-check!).
Deidre, on the other hand, came to me fresh. When I wrote the first line for GOOD THINGS, “These corn fritters are simply orgasmic!” (spoken by another character), Deidre showed up in her ruched scoop neck dress and Cole Haan slingbacks and that was the end of that.
It’s sort of like being assigned a roommate in college – there she is, like her or not. All her stuff is out, her pictures are up on the walls, her clothes are hanging in the closet you share … and you’re stuck with her for the WHOLE year. You hear her telephone conversations, you meet her friends, you know what she stashes in the sock drawer of her dresser. As the months progress, she becomes more familiar. You watch her put on makeup, you know her annoying habits, you know when she gets her period. You end up knowing a lot about her, but she’s not you. You have no control over what she ultimately ends up doing.
You don’t have to love your protagonist all the time. I didn’t. But I was always rooting for Deidre, and by the end of the novel, I was definitely ready to throw her a party. You can’t always choose your roommates, but it’s a good thing when she turns out to be someone you like and end up connecting with.
Do you keep up with your college roommates?