My protagonist in For Better, For Murder, sports car boutique owner Jolene Asdale, bears an uncanny resemblance to her estranged husband’s favorite actress, Valerie Bertinelli. That’s what first attracted him to her. Let me tell you what attracted me to using this description in the debut novel of the Broken Vows Mystery series.
You may think I picked Valerie because she’s getting a lot of press lately. In reality, I picked her before all this press started, and, as a result, it’s been a little stressful.
I picked Valerie because I wanted someone who had been on television when my characters were children. Her girl-next-door image from One Day at a Time and her attractiveness fit Jolene Asdale. And some days Jolene can only take life one…day…at…a…time. The symmetry of it all was perfect—or so I thought.
My first hint of trouble was a note from one of my critique partners. It said “what if the reader doesn’t know who Valerie is?” I thought this might be my critique partner’s subtle way of letting me know she had to look up Valerie on Wikipedia. I brushed this concern off—we all use Wikipedia.
Then, a month after I started sending out queries to agents for this novel, I was pushing a grocery cart through the store when I spotted Valerie on the cover of People magazine. I rolled closer, only to read about her undesired weight gain. My first thought was—okay, I can’t tell you my first thought. But my second thought was that I had written a size eight character that had, according to the report, blossomed to a size fourteen. Not the desired imagery at all.
I studied the picture of Valerie at size fourteen. I thought about the fact that the average American woman is, I believe, a size fourteen. I decided Valerie still looked fabulous. I rolled my cart away.
It seemed like less than two months later, I’m in the grocery store checkout line and Valerie was gracing the cover of People again, now a slimmed down size something. Once again, she looked fabulous. I mentally thanked her for being a team player.
A couple months ago, Valerie’s on People magazine in her size six bikini with belly button ring, looking fabulous yet again. However, my character Jolene Asdale would never wear a belly button ring. She wouldn’t want the pain and wouldn’t see any reason for it. She prefers her belly button covered; she doesn’t like drafts. She doesn’t like to exercise and would never run unless chased.
It’s too late to talk to Valerie about being a team player. I’m going to have to say it’s all fabulous. That’s all I can do.