The winner of the signed copy is Iil (Lil?) Gluckstern! She will need to send me her snail mail addy (vicki_laneATmtnareaDOTnet)
Vicki Lane is the author of The Day of Small Things (coming September 28!) and of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries — Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony-nominated In A Dark Season, and Under the Skin (coming from Bantam Dell in 2011.) Vicki draws her inspiration from the rural western NC county where she and her family have lived on a mountainside farm since 1975. Visit Vicki at her daily blog, her website or go HERE to learn more about The Day of Small Things.
A Minor Character?
“Why don’t you do a spin-off before you do another Elizabeth book?” asked Herself, my indefatigable editor, during our yearly conference at Bouchercon a few years ago. “A stand alone — a non-series book. Maybe about one of your minor characters. No Elizabeth.”
Hmm. After four books about Elizabeth Goodweather, I was open to trying something new. Besides, when Herself speaks, I tend to listen.
“I could do that,” I said. “What if I picked up where I left off in the historical subplot of Signs in the Blood? I’d been thinking it might be interesting to tell Clytie’s story – you, know, Little Sylvie’s sister. I could …”
I could tell Herself wasn’t interested. She was gazing off into the middle distance as she said, “Mmm, I was thinking about one of Elizabeth’s neighbors . . .”
That’s how Herself operates. She doesn’t so much tell me what to do, as nudge me till I end up where she wants me.
“A book about Miss Birdie.” I said. “You want a book about Miss Birdie?”
“What a good idea!” Herself exclaimed. “I can’t wait to read it!”
Miss Birdie is Elizabeth Goodweather’s eighty-something year old neighbor. She’s based on several of my own neighbors and is a gutsy little woman who reminds many of my readers of a favorite grandmother or aunt. A cute little lady who says ‘Ay, law’ a lot, she bustles around her kitchen making cornbread and dispensing local color. A wonderful minor character – but could I write a whole novel about her?
About this time, while I was trying to decide if there was an interesting past to Miss Birdie, my friend Kathy (the original of Sallie Kate, Elizabeth’s realtor friend) told me a heart-breaking story about a local woman. Now in late middle age, she had always been kept at home by her mother, not even allowed to attend school. Why? The mother had wanted to be sure that this youngest daughter would never get married and move away – this daughter was raised to be her mother’s caretaker in old age.
Building on this true story, I began to imagine what Birdie’s life had been before she was that quaint old woman down the road from Elizabeth’s farm – before, in fact, she was Miss Birdie.
Oh, my! As I wrote, more and more of Birdie’s past made itself known – from her early life close to nature in a lonely mountain cove to the raucous setting of a local tavern/dance hall/brothel. There was Cherokee magic, there was romance, there was unsolved murder.
And then, in the present day, Birdie emerged in all her power – not the cute little neighbor who seemed to sit around waiting for Elizabeth to drop by and bring her to life, but a woman of power – capable of risking all in defense of a child.
I really loved finding out more about this woman I thought I’d invented. And I’ve decided that there are no minor characters – in fiction or in life.
They’re all just waiting to have their stories told.