I never meant to be one of my characters

My book characters changed my life, and it was weird. I invented them, and they re-invented me.  I have no idea whether that has happened to anyone else, subconscious impulses pouring out through the fingers, but when I first wrote One Two it wasn’t called that, it certainly wasn’t for publishing, and the characters were much older: it was a book I wrote in memory of my mother, who had reluctantly moved to a retirement village (they’re for old people, she said crossly. She was eighty) and turned her life upside down.  She made new friends, flirted outrageously, took on a whole new life, and died just when things were getting really interesting. I coped with it by writing her into a book with a kind of generic best friend, a lovely Scottish flirt, and a gay man who shared her love of opera, and gave them a murder to solve because she loved whodunits. It may be unconventional therapy but it helped, she is embedded in amber, enjoying herself, telling her wicked stories, vital and vigorous forever.

It was the first time I had tried my hand at a whodunit and I found the plotting absolutely fascinating. A few years later it was still niggling at me and I finally rewrote One Two in the age group I thought I knew best – my own. The ‘generic best friend’ became the main character, the title cropped up and suggested the idea of a series, and the setting changed to Scotland, where I live, and which I love. I was on an elective career break at the time, and became addicted, no other word for it. For two years I lived at my desk, writing until three in the morning, dazed and enchanted, living what had been a part-time passion for decades.

Edge isn’t me. None of them are me, although they all come from me, and my traits are liberally scattered between the four friends, but as their lives grew more interesting, book after book, it dawned on me, oh so slowly, that I could be having a more interesting life too. Couldn’t I? The Indian summer dawned for them before it dawned for me, but I found I was changing.  I was so engrossed I kept forgetting to eat, and I also made myself exercise: always that fear the wind could change and I’d be locked into a seated position for good. One genuinely unexpected result was that from being nearly William’s size I shrank down to Vivian’s size, then further.  Vivian and William started a sedate fling, almost without me noticing. In Five Six Edge joined a dating website, as bait for a Police Scotland investigation. In Seven Eight she had a ‘thing’ with another resident. In Nine Ten the characters actually shocked me by taking over. The beta readers were okay with it, but I was nervous. I knew from the Five Six research that she was entirely in character but I now no longer knew as much about life as my own imaginary friends . . .

Well, any regular reader of my blogs knows I joined a singles website just to keep up.  By the time I wrote Thirteen Fourteen I was having a thing of my own. Fun, too. The sun was shining in my Indian summer, and life was extremely good.  It still is. The books have become a celebration of the gift of energy and vitality that is so utterly unexpected and catches so many of us off-balance.

Fifteen Sixteen is stuck in limbo, with real life interfering all too often. No matter. It will come. My pen ran dry altogether for six months, not helped by me running out of money and going back to full-time work, but recently took off with a vengeance, pouring out a comedy romance about an autumn rose who finds herself in the first wives club, joins a website, and meets the kind of bizarre people one does meet, especially the perennial singles who have dodged grown-up relationships for forty years and counting.

I’m still not even sure it will be published, and if it was, whatever name would I use?  EJ Lamprey writes whodunits about characters who have been emerging into their own sunshine, but that is very much in the background of the books (okay, less so in Nine Ten). Joanna Lamprey writes SF. Another name would be nuts!  Yet anyone who started reading me via Dorothy’s encounters once she joins the YellowBrickRoad website will have expectations that simply aren’t going to be met by the Grasshopper Lawns stories. Oh well, I’ll work it out.

Hi. How are you, anyway? It’s been ages.

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