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Nancy Haddock | Invisible Friends: A Play Day with Characters

April 2, 2008

As a reader, don’t you just love finding characters you’d like to have as friends? Or for back up if life got down right dangerous? Or, oo-la-la, as a secret admirer if not a lover?

I adore it when I become attached to the characters in books. Those I meet in only one book, I’ll revisit by rereading over and over. Those I meet in a series, I get to revisit with each new book. And, yes, I have been known to reread every book in a series before I read the newest one, if only to touch base and catch up.

As a writer, I’ve grown attached to my own characters. So much so, that they are no longer merely “imaginary” friends – they’re full-scale invisible ones!

In my debut from Berkley, LA VIDA VAMPIRE, my heroine Cesca is a born and bred native of St. Augustine, FL, the city I now call home. When I go down to the Old Town – with friends or by myself – it’s all too easy to view the sites from Cesca’s point of view. In fact, it’s a struggle not to see through her eyes because she’s that real to me.

When Cesca and I go out for a play day in town, I’m fascinated by what she sees as “new” from her perspective. What is her perspective? Cesca was buried in silver-chained coffin in 1803, and doesn’t see the light of day until 2007. The oldest drug store, for instance, was in a different location in her time. The Huguenot Cemetery didn’t exist until at least 1812, if not later. The Castillo de San Marcos is no longer painted the distinctive white and red that marked it as a Spanish fortress. It’s interesting to feel both Cesca’s excitement about the changes in her hometown, and the sadness that she missed all those years of seeing things change firsthand.

What’s also a kick is to shop with Cesca. She is a far more intense shopper than I ever want to be, and I nearly feel her scan everything at once when she walks in to a store. She was “with” me in a Tuesday Morning once when I was looking for the special coffee makers advertised. I found what I wanted, but I also bought a retro wall clock that Cesca wanted. That’s right, I said I bought the clock my character wanted. Am I nuts? Not entirely. The clock was a reasonable price, and, though it’s not what I would’ve bought, it grew on me. It’s in my office, and even has a separate “egg” timer that I set to keep myself from spending too much time on e-mail.

The very coolest thing about going out for a play day with my characters is that I come back to the story refreshed and with a new depth of understanding what they’re like as people. That’s the energy I want to pour onto the pages. That’s the energy I hope readers will resonate with so that my invisible friends will become theirs, too!

And, hey, so long as I don’t buy that surfboard Cesca has her eye on, I haven’t gone too far ‘round the bend, right?

Nancy Haddock’s debut book La Vida Vampire is an April release from Berkley Trade. You can visit her website and play the Where’s Cesca contest at:

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