• Michelle Vernal

Me, Myself and my Characters

I was thinking about a character I am going to write in a new book, its hazy days but I think she is going to be in her forties, married with children. That’s a new one for me, but as the plot begins to shift and shape in my mind, I have a feeling she’s going to be easy to write because, well, I’m in my forties, married with children.

The problem I'm having at the moment is that there are so many stories vying for attention that nothing is getting written. I need to get to know this new lady better I think, perhaps have a chat with her while I go for a walk and then get on with the nitty gritty… the writing.

There’s been a lot of different men and women who’ve peppered my stories, and I have loved them all. I have to say though that Carl from Being Shirley and Sweet Home Summer, Bridget from Sweet Home Summer and, you haven’t met her yet, but honestly I just loved her, Constance from The Promise (another feisty old lady) have been the easiest to write. I have chats back and forth with them when writing which is why my books have a lot of dialogue. My agent, Vicki told me I write feisty old ladies really well! I wonder if it means I'm going to have a lot to say for myself in my dotage.

Do you remember Rebeccafrom The Brazilian Job? She was insecure, constantly comparing herself to her sister. She let people take advantage of her and she had hang-ups about her weight among other things. When I began writing that story I had a toddler and a baby. It was a time that while a lot of fun was obviously hard work. It was also a time when I got a bit bogged down and setting myself the task of writing a book was a way of getting a little bit back of who I was before children. Rebecca made me laugh because all the insecurities I had in my youth right through to having my kids were all bundled up in her and they were silly.

As for Jess in Second Hand Jane, well we’ve both kissed a lot of frogs, we both write and we both love second-hand things. Oh and most importantly we both collect Ladybird books. Annie with her masses of red hair is on a journey of self-discovery in Being Shirley. She lost her sister to drugs something she's never put to rest. I lost someone years ago because of drugs, and I tried to tap into those emotions with her. It was also an excuse to go back to the Greek Islands, in my head! I wanted Annie to have her happily ever after and so she came back in Sweet Home Summer. Then there's Kitty on a quest to find out who her mother really was in The Traveller’s Daughter. She's quietly determined and quite soft at heart. I think me and her would get on well because she must be a Capricorn too.

As I’m getting older my characters, seem to be losing some of their hang-ups and getting a little more assertive. That’s not to say I don’t pound it out at the gym trying to keep the middle-age spread from going berserk. Ok, so pounding it out is a bit of a stretch, but I am more relaxed about myself than I used to be. This I think is reflected in my writing because I’m enjoying having my girls reach a certain age and look back on their life. I love writing a contrasting story of then and now with things tying up happily ever after. We all need a happy ever after don't we?

As for Isabel in The Promise, I hope you’re going to like her. I do. She’s trying to find where she fits in the world and can be a little bit anxious, something I can relate to. She’s kind of accident prone and wonders why things always happen to her. Hmm, once upon a time in the nineties I strutted around a pub with toilet paper trailing behind me. Yep I can definitely relate. Most importantly she is dependable and just like the title, she always keeps her promises x

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