It’s been three years, five months, and two days since I first released Finding Eliza. It was my first book baby. I had written several genealogy research guides for a niche company well known in the family history world, but I had never sent fiction out into the great reading beyond.
I loved the characters that appeared on its pages more than a lot of the living people I knew at the time. Lizzie, Gertrude, Blue, Abi, and Claud were family. Eliza and Eldridge showed up in my dreams. I thought of these characters all the time.
But then I moved on to different projects, had a mid-life baby, learned to write again with a toddler. I didn’t fall out of love with them. I just got distracted.
Last week, I signed a contract with the most amazing voice actor who is narrating and producing the audiobook version of Finding Eliza. Suddenly, I was once again living, breathing, and dreaming about the Gals and the other residents of Everett Springs, both past and present.
Hearing their voices come out in the audio samples that Hannah sends me straight back to the moments when I sat at my desk in the dark writing every word of dialogue and description.
I’ve fallen in love with the characters all over again.
I can picture Lizzie sitting in the park with her pimento cheese sandwich. I can hear her Suburban barrel down their dirt drive when she heads home. It’s become so real to me again.
The thing about characters is that they aren’t easily created – or easily dismissed. They are extensions of ourselves or our family. They are friends or relatives that we miss or wish we had. When you read the description of a character in your latest library reserve you are reading about the loved one of the author who penned it. It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that someone else might love them as much as we do.
My grandmother died thirteen years ago. She was an amazing southern lady. Gertrude, though more fashionable, is based in part on her. The way she relates to her granddaughter is so like the way my Granny related to me. We were both broken teenagers at some point having our “steel magnolia” of a gran putting us back together. For Lizzie, that was after her parents died. For me, it was being a partner to my mother as she raised me.
The original cover for Finding Eliza was cropped and edited version of her high school graduation photo. She never saw me publish my first book, but she is within its pages from start to finish. Part of me is a little sad that I’ll be debuting an updated cover for it next month because it’s another piece of my grandmother that I get to hold in my hand while she isn’t here.
But just like Lizzie, I’ll learn that my family is in my heart long after they aren’t on this earth.
The next time you read a character in one of your favorite books smile warmly for the person that the author loved dearly – even if they were the antagonist.
Are you a book blogger or reviewer? If you’re interested in a review copy of Finding Eliza, let me know! I’d be glad to send you one.
© 2017, Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.