After publication, almost every author has an awkward experience in which she’s sitting at a family dinner, getting that look from a family member — the look that says, “The annoying, meddlesome aunt character? Yeah, I know that was me.”
And no matter how fervently the author swears that the annoying meddlesome aunt wasn’t based on her Uncle Roy, nothing can shake Uncle Roy’s belief that his personality has misappropriated for the author’s storytelling purposes.
These borrowed quirks make it just a little more fun when you’re designing a large family for a character. Nola, the leading lady in A Witch's Handbook of Kisses and Curses, has a family that is constantly in flux. She loses her parents early on, and is taken in by distant relatives in Ireland, then sent to live semi-rural Kentucky to find four magical objects that secure those relatives’ magical legacy for another generation. When she arrives in Half-Moon Hollow, she finds another ready-made surrogate family in Jane Jameson and Company. Working with the Half-Moon Hollow characters again reminded of all of the personal oddities I’d built into Jane and her friends and how they reflected the people around me — my friends who gave the characters their sarcastic, bouncing banter, my mother, who gave Jane’s mother her complete inability to tell her children that they gave her a bad gift; and my sister, Manda, also known as “The Living Disclaimer,” who gave Andrea her need to caution people before they’re about to do something really stupid.
Of course, when people ask, I will not admit that one person inspired any of the characters in my books, because I’m pretty sure my family is storing up evidence for their inevitable lawsuit.
Writers draw inspiration from the resources around them. And what richer resources could we find than the people with whom we spend the most time? So yes, no matter how hard we try to avoid it, little personality quirks from our loved ones make it into our characters. It may be a habit or a favorite saying or a funny story. And we can only hope that our writing skills help us use those traits so covertly that the subject doesn’t realize they’ve been “borrowed.”
Clearly, as in the case of Uncle Roy, this doesn’t always work out.
THE VARIOUS INFLUENCES OF MOLLY HARPER’S FAMILY ON HER CHARACTERS:
In How To Flirt With a Naked Werewolf, Mo gets her job cooking at The Blue Glacier because Pete the fry cook cuts his hand while trying to prove his new knives could slice a bottle in half. My brother, Matt, a classically trained chef, did this using his fancy ceramic knives on a Coke bottle and ended up having two surgeries.
While I share my character, Jane Jameson’s, fear of clowns, my sister, Manda, is the one with the random phobias that haunt my other characters. See Josh Vaughn’s extreme automatonophobia in My Bluegrass Baby. Manda’s afraid of porcelain dolls, people in mascot costumes, and men with moustaches. That last one made family gatherings rough since at one point, each of our five uncles had moustaches during our childhood.
My dad’s darn near unreasonable devotion to his college fraternity, Phi Rho Chi, made it into And One Last Thing... My character, Lacey, is unsure of whether her dad would come back early from his fraternity annual reunion/dart tournament to attend her funeral. I am at least eighty percent sure mine would… sixty-five percent… Sixty two.
- Molly Harper
For humorous, fast-paced paranormal romance, make sure to pick up Molly Harper's newest novel A Witch's Handbook of Kisses and Curses available now online and in bookstores. And for more stories featuring supernatural creatures, visit our Everything Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Page.