Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Hank Phillippi Ryan | Keeping Mom Happy

January 23, 2008
My mother is so mad at me. She’s in the midst of reading Face Time, the newest Charlotte McNally Mystery. It’s just been named a Book Sense Notable Book, and it’s on the Boston Globe Best Seller list.

I say: Hooray. And I expected the same reaction from my mother. But Mom, who has only read the first ten pages or so, actually said: “I’m sure that’s lovely, dear.” You have to imagine the “Mom” tone. Maybe you’ve used it a time or two yourself. Or perhaps, you’ve heard it. I’m thinking all daughters have.

Turns out, Mom is unhappy with Face Time.

To be sure: Mom is terrific. She’s almost 80, and is absolutely beautiful. An artist, a reader, a wonderful intellect. (She doesn’t have a computer, so she’s not reading this.) I’m her oldest daughter, and any psychologist will tell you that can cause some friction.

So anyway. Why is Mom mad? She thinks I’ve “used her for art.”

It’s true: Charlie McNally’s mother in Face Time is a bit—persnickety. She’s opinionated. She thinks, for instance, that Charlotte might want to give up her very successful 20-year TV career to marry some tycoon and become a tycoon wife. No matter that Charlie is happy with the personal life (pretty happy, at least, for a 46-year-old single woman who is married to her job) and happy with her professional life (pretty happy, at least, even though she’s fearful she’s going to be replaced by someone younger).

Mom also thinks Charlotte (she refuses to call her Charlie, saying, “nicknames are for stuffed animals and men who play sports”) might want to visit the plastic surgeon for some face time of her own.

Now Mrs. McNally is not, I repeat, not, my mother. But in these days of controversy over whether books that are purported to be memoirs are actually true—I find myself fighting to convince her that my book is truly fiction.

It’s ALL MADE UP, I tell her. Yes, Charlie has a Mom, and I have a Mom. But I’m not Charlie and she’s not you.

Silence on the other end of the phone.

“Of course it’s me, dear,” she finally says. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

So I’m wondering, do any of you have a problem with this? Do people “recognize” themselves in your books—and you have to convince them it’s a fictional character they’re recognizing? Would you “use” someone for “art”?

Or if you’re a reader, do you assume fictional characters are real people just put on paper?

And as it turns out—as Mom will find out if she’ll just persevere and get to the end of the book—it’s not only a mystery, and a romance, but kind of a love story between mothers and daughters. My editor said she had tears in her eyes when she read it. One reviewer told me she downright cried at the final scene. (Which is odd, you have to admit, in a murder mystery.)

Yes, as authors we take elements of reality. Then we polish, and tweak, and exaggerate, and accessorize. But the fun is making up something completely new. Creating a new world. New characters and new relationships. And it’s ALL MADE UP.

Okay, Mom?

Do you have a contentious relationship with your mother? (or daughter?) Do you understand each other? I’d love to hear from you–just check my website. And let’s chat.

With love to all mothers and daughters…

Hank (okay, it’s Harriet but you must never reveal that…and of course, it was Mom’s idea.)

PS: And oh–being a reporter myself, ( I do have news! PRIME TIME, the first Charlotte McNally Mystery, is a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice nominee!

And there’s more: AIR TIME, the third Charlotte McNally Mystery, is now scheduled to be published in the next year or so, followed soon after by DRIVE TIME. Here are some hints: Someone has a baby. Someone leaves town. Someone decides NOT to get married. Do you think you know who?

Enter Hank Phillippi Ryan ONE DAY ONLY BLOG contest TEN WINNERS!!!!

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