Choosing the professions of my fictional characters is something I look forward to every time. I try to pick something I am interested in, so I can write about it with conviction, passion and sincerity. I would not, say, write about an accountant or a mathematician; for me, math is a major irritant, like getting sand in my eye. So when it comes to math, I have to take a pass.
But that still leaves a lot of fields wide open. I have written about characters that were violinists, ballerinas, children’s book editors, podiatrists, obstetricians, bar owners, interior designers, and architects. One character owned a bra shop, and boy did I have a lot of fun with that. Another did not know what she wanted to do, and found her calling in the course of the novel. What I didn’t know about these fields I was able to research, a process both invigorating and thrilling because it allowed me, however briefly, to slip into someone else’s life.
On the deepest level, though, the character’s profession needs to speak for her or his soul and it is my job as the author to match my understanding of the character’s inner life with a suitable profession. When I wrote You Were Meant for Me, I had three main characters for which I needed to create professions.
I chose photography for one of the male protagonists, Evan Zuckerbrot. Evan is sweet, sensitive and a bit dreamy. He’s not a player in any sense of the word, and the kind of small format black and white work he does as a photographer is consistent with the man I was trying to create. It also helped that my husband just happens to be a photographer who works in that same mode, and I drew heavily on both his working methods and his philosophy to form that part of Evan’s character.
Jared Masters, the second of the two key male voices, is a very different kind of man and this difference is reflected in his profession. He’s a real estate broker: smooth, urbane and easy with people, especially the ladies. His charm opens doors for him, and he is successful in his work largely because of it. I knew he needed a profession that would highlight and showcase those aspects of his nature.
Finally, at the crux of the triangle is Miranda Berenzweig, thirty-five and newly single after a disappointing break up with a boyfriend who done her wrong. Finding a baby and becoming a foster mother are about the last things on her mind—and yet that’s what happens to her. In fact, as the novel opens, she’s just gotten a promotion at work—she’s the food editor at a fictional shelter magazine called Domestic Goddess—and she is very excited about her new responsibilities. She’s interested in cooking and especially baking, and loves to share what she bakes with the people she cares about. I wanted to emphasize her nurturing qualities—qualities she may have taken for granted until she is tried and tested in unexpected ways. Cupcakes play a significant role in her professional life, and she makes good use of them. Miranda’s always busy baking for other people, but by the novel’s end, she gets to have her cake—and eat it too.