Monday, February 22, 2016

Who Is Lilliana Wentworth?

In my last post, I wrote about how I got the idea for my African Violet Club Mystery series. Now I had to come up with my sleuth.

Since my retirement, I’ve been spending more time with senior citizens. I still have a hard time thinking of myself as one, but I suppose once you start collecting Social Security, it’s time to admit you’re no longer middle aged. While most of us have our share of aches and pains, we no longer spend our days knitting on the porch. People well into their seventies and eighties drive, volunteer at the food pantry and various museums and parks around town, hike, play golf, and sometimes even find new jobs.  In other words, Miss Marple in an easy chair wasn’t going to be my role model.

I’ve also done enough writing by now so my main character doesn’t have to be largely a clone of myself. I’ve learned how to get inside the heads of other types of people, see the world from a different perspective than my own. And I definitely wanted to distinguish my new senior sleuth from Faith Andersen, the thirty-something who’s the heroine of my Community of Faith mysteries.



Because I like books and literary references, and I didn’t want my sleuth to be a retired English teacher like Jessica Fletcher, I decided the perfect former occupation would be librarian. Librarians love books, but today’s librarians also have to be tech savvy, assist with computers and homework help, organize community events, and help patrons locate movies and music as well as books.

Since I had recently been revisiting Shakespeare’s plays (yes, largely inspired by seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet and loving it), I thought she should also like Shakespeare. I remembered a high school teacher I had, the one who introduced me to Shakespeare, who reread all of the plays over every summer vacation. So I’ve incorporated elements of that teacher into my sleuth’s character as well.

For a change, I decided that rather than battling overweight, my sleuth would be one of those seniors who is no longer very interested in eating. She has a hard time putting weight on rather than taking it off.

And, of course, she’s obsessed with growing African violets. I have to confess that, while I like raising a few plants, I struggle to keep my African violets healthy. I used to say I had a black thumb. I’m not sure that’s true, but I’m not interested in growing lots of plants or showing them. I love having a few, especially when they’re blooming, to cheer up a room. But I’ve met several senior citizens who are obsessed.

I have too many books. Even when I donate some to the Friends of the Library, I soon fill up the empty shelf space with more books. African violet fanciers have hundreds of plants. They give them away, sell them at shows, donate them to raffles at the local meeting. But they order more plants, root more leaves, and can’t resist accepting a new hybrid from a friend.

As I’ve written the books, I’ve discovered more about Lilliana Wentworth than what I originally came up with. At least consciously. Broadway show tunes play a featured part in the third book in the series. I was delighted to discover a Broadway show reference in the first book when I went back to edit. Apparently Lilliana knew what was coming, even if I didn’t.

I think that’s enough for now. I’m sure we’ll all discover more about Lilliana Wentworth as the series progresses.
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