The two questions I’m most frequently asked as a writer are: 1) How do you come up with ideas for your books? and 2) Are your characters based on real people?
As to the former, I’ve always been one to ask, “What if?” In the case of the three books in my “Ghost Encounters” series, the underlying question was, “What if a woman could communicate with the dead through her unique – and powerful – sexual energy?” That woman is my Ghost Encounters heroine, Toni Bianchi – a quirky, curvy, wise-cracking psychic medium who helps the restless undead find peace through that most-powerful of human emotions – LUST!
Regarding the latter, my characters are made up of the qualities I love – and hate – in myself and the meaningful people in my life.
A minor – but pivotal – player in “Stage Fright” is the ghost of Thomas Becker’s late grandmother, Claudette. She is based on one of the dearest influences in my life, my own late grandmother, Josephine.
Josephine was a force of nature; an oft-wed mother of five who breezed through life with such an engaging and unbridled joie de vivre that even the most cynical who met her couldn’t help but be caught up in it. To Josephine, everything was magical. Life was an adventure! She truly marched to her own, private (and no doubt devastatingly handsome) drummer. When my grandmother passed – eight years ago – I said that if I left this world making one person feel as unconditionally loved as she made me feel, my work here would be done. Her love for life was remarkable, but her love for people was boundless. And that, my darlings, is a legacy to aspire to.
I spent many formative hours with my grandmother. We talked and played cards and shared with each other the wonders of art and nature. She opened my eyes to the beauty of the world around me. Some of our most joyous moments were spent at the local multi-screen movie theatre “stealing time.” We would travel by taxi (she had never learned to drive) to a beautiful local movie house. The building was stunning. In the lobby, sumptuous curved couches surrounded a two-story lighted fountain with fat, vibrant goldfish swimming in the pool. Grandma would peel a few dollars from her pocketbook for the day’s first feature.
And then, the fun began.
We would spend a couple of hours lost in the blockbuster of the day, then while the credits rolled, we would make our move. We'd nonchalantly file into the lobby and take our place in the queue for the concession stand. At the ideal moment, Josephine would feign her impatience at the wait (as if we had just arrived at the theatre) then stage-whisper something about not wanting to miss the opening scene. Before the ticket-takers could catch on, we had found our seats in another screening room and were munching on hard candies from her purse, waiting for the next feature to begin. On a good day, we could see three films for the price of one. I can only recall snippets of the movies we enjoyed together, but I can remember, like it was yesterday, the feeling of sorority I felt with that fabulously mischievous woman.
I can also remember the day of her funeral. She’d been dressed in the outfit she’d set aside years before for the occasion and her favorite black onyx rosary was arranged in her fingers. I reached into the casket and touched her hand and understood in that moment that she wasn’t there; what she left behind had nothing to do with the body she’d inhabited in life. That night I had the first in a series of incredibly vivid dreams that have informed my writing in the paranormal genre. She appeared to me in my sleep and when I asked, “Grandma, can we go to the movies?” she smiled at me and said, “Oh, honey, you know it’s too late for that.”
And so, in my book – “Stage Fright” – I pay homage to my grandmother by letting her live on in the character, Claudette. In fact, the dedication reads, “To J.A., who taught me to love movies and bend rules.”
Darlings, I hope you will love the characters I’ve created as much as I love the people who inspired them.
With boundless love and gratitude,