I had several worries when my first novel, Finding Grace, went to print in 2012 and I knew it was going to be--gulp!-- "out there," open to possible criticism and negative reviews. One worry was that readers might find my writing too plain. You see, I don't use a lot of awe-inspiring metaphors in my prose (a style I often admire in the writing of other authors); and I don't spend a lot of time using detailed brushstrokes to paint a clear picture of what the scenery looks like, or the buildings, or even the physical appearance of the characters themselves. (Did you see what I did there? I used a metaphor!)
But because character development is the #1 thing I look for in novels myself, my biggest concern of all when it came to Finding Grace was that readers wouldn't like or be able to relate to my characters, or that the conversations between them wouldn't ring true. Or mostly that they would put the book down when they hadn't even gotten that far into it, because they just couldn't care enough about Grace Kelly or Tom Buckley or Jimmy Sullivan or any of the rest of the rather large cast of characters that populate this lengthy novel.
My husband (who has not one infinitesimal speck of bias where I'm concerned, of course) couldn't stop gushing about what a great job I'd done in the character development department. But I couldn't take his word for it (sorry, big guy). I know he thinks I can do no wrong; but I realized that there might be plenty of readers who would think otherwise.
You can imagine, then, how gratified I was to read some of the kind reviews of my first "baby" when they appeared on the book's Amazon page--reviews that contained comments such as this one, from Catholic author Therese Heckenkamp: "The characters are fully developed, easy to relate to, and real. Grace's relationships with her parents, her many brothers, and her friends, are genuine. Readers will become invested in Grace's fate, and yearn for her to win her true love in the end." Therese's assessment made my heart sing, because that was my dearest wish--that readers would become invested in the fate of my characters, who had all taken on lives of their own by the time I finished the manuscript and had become my special friends.
I was so touched by Chris's comments, because Abe and Miriam Perlmann are very beloved characters to me. They were inspired by a story my mom once told me about a Jewish couple with whom she and my dad were friends: this couple had lost many loved ones in the Holocaust, and Mom said they refused to ride in German-made cars. That was the jumping off point for the Perlmann story line, and the rest is completely fictional. It was one of the hardest parts of the book to write--in fact, I put off tackling it for quite some time, even after I'd researched the historical part and come up with a rough outline for what was going to happen. It was very important to me to make the Perlmanns and their ordeal seem real, so I'm glad that Chris was able to connect with "Mrs. P."
If you've read Finding Grace, is there a character that resonated in a special way with you? If so, who and why?
Personally, like Grace I've got a soft spot for Tom Buckley, who was inspired by this good-looking young stud (who just happens to be the great love of my life, the high school boyfriend who is now my husband of almost 35 years).
If you haven't read Finding Grace, do you have a favorite literary character from some other work (a grace-filled one, I hope)? Please share--I love discussing fiction with fellow bookworms!