Reader M.K.–who is also the writer Mary Tod!–asked: how and why did you decide on the voice you used for Delilah in A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS?
Ah, such a good question! And not an easy one to answer. I can’t say I was ever conscious of developing Delilah’s voice. Once I knew who she was, the voice was simply there. I knew what she sounded like because I knew precisely who she was as a person. I imagined someone sophisticated and clever, with a trans-Atlantic, privileged upbringing. I imagined someone damaged and covering that damage with a veneer of casual indifference. And I imagined someone who was capable of changing for the better.
One of the more surprising influences for Delilah’s character was Eloise, believe it or not! I have always loved Kay Thompson’s six-year old heroine who lives at the Plaza Hotel, and one day when I was pondering Delilah, I flipped through the collection of Eloise books, I started wondering who she would be when she grew up. She has wealth and material possession but a mother who sends expensive presents in lieu of giving of herself. She has a loving but benignly neglectful nanny and a collection of people who are either charmed by her or find her intolerable. She has generous impulses, but she can be selfish and obstinate, more concerned with what she wants than what she ought to do. Her education is spotty, her manners hit or miss, but she is highly original and energetic. That’s a recipe for a fascinating character! And when I thought about her as an adult, it became clear that she could become absolutely wonderful–or fairly monstrous, depending upon how circumstances shaped her. If she were given love and appreciation, she would flourish. But if she suffered loss and tragedy, she could turn that into something self-destructive. And if all this seems WAY too convoluted when thinking of a children’s book character, I can only say that you never really know what’s going to be the springboard for your imagination. It was a twisted little game of “what if” I played that day, but it led to some very interesting elements to Delilah’s character.
(As a side note, Mary will drop by near the end of September to do a guest blog for her upcoming release–can’t wait to host her here!)
And reader Kristin asked: Do you ever feel driven/inspired to write one thing but have a deadline for another project? How do you “quiet” the voice urging you toward the other thing?
There’s nothing else to do when you’re on deadline but to ruthlessly squash the new little projects begging for attention. The newest idea is always the shiniest, the most alluring, but that doesn’t do you any good when you have something that MUST be finished. I will open a file folder, jot notes and pull tearsheets from magazines, and throw those things into the folder. That way I don’t forget what I wanted to do with the project, and it’s also not prodding at my imagination, demanding attention. I make a point of NOT going to do research at this point since that would only make things worse.