Thursday, September 16, 2010

Being Mama

By Deborah Sharp

I knew I’d crossed a line when I spent two hours in the wedding aisle of a fabric store, examining tulle.

Formerly known to me as ''that floaty stuff ballerinas wear,'' the fabric has assumed an unnatural importance of late. My latest mystery novel is set around a wedding. So, I have immersed myself in all things nuptial.

''Which color do you think Mama would like for her bouquet?'' I asked my husband.

He looked at several spools of orange ribbon I’d bought, from sherbet-shaded to Halloween pumpkin. And then he looked at me. He spoke carefully.

''You do know ‘Mama’ is a fictional character, right?''

''What’s your point?'' I asked.

I think he’s beginning to resent the fact that this pretend wedding for a woman who doesn’t exist is getting more of my attention than our own wedding did, 21 years ago.

My own wedding was simple, a backyard affair. But the Mama character defines over-the-top, complete with a Pomeranian as ring-bearer, Scarlett O'Hara bridesmaid gowns, and a ''Gone With the Wind'' themed wedding. A friend made a suitably tacky, Mama-style veil for me to wear at book signings. It looks like a dropping of fake flowers and tulle that some huge, prehistoric wedding bird plopped on the top of my head.

(You can get a glimpse of The Veil in a clip from a book event that ran during my recent interview on the Today Show. Click here to watch. )

I never made favors for OUR wedding. But for MAMA GETS HITCHED, I stuffed more than a hundred teeny-tiny gift bags, tying and curling the ends of each pastel ribbon. The intent of the bags: To build anticipation last spring among mystery fans at the Malice Domestic conference for the summer launch of HITCHED. I’ve combed bridal books for the perfect punch to serve, and laminated JUST MARRIED signs for book-store podiums.

Another friend, a judge, offered to appear at one of my signings, dressed in his official black robes.

''I’ll perform the wedding for Mama,'' he said eagerly.

''Great, we'll have a bride's side and a groom's side. We'll get a soloist to do Mama's favorite song . . . ''

Suddenly, I realized there could be a little problem with my failure to distinguish between reality and my fictional character. Technically, I’m Mama, since she lives inside my head. Legally, I’m already married. If my husband is miffed about the energy I’m devoting to Mama’s wedding, how will he feel when I come home with her groom?

Alas, I had to turn down the judge’s offer.

Now that I’ve saved myself from bigamy, I’ve got to run. I’m headed to the bakery to pick out Mama’s wedding cake.

How about you? Writers, what crazy thing have you done for your fictional character? Readers, what makes you blur the line between fiction and reality?


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

A few of my friends have given me that "You know they're not real, don't you?" speech. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell that to my vampires as they chew on my neck while I'm typing. Or the ghosts who lean over my shoulders to get a look at the computer screen until I feel crowded and tell them to back off. For my launch party for Murder In Vein on Saturday, I'm creating several bite marks on my neck, complete with fake blood.

Darrell James said...

Deb- Like most authors I talk to my characters, mostly while driving, so other motorists are constantly craning their necks to see the midget in the car.

But mostly I've begun to act like my protagonist. Before I take action, I ask myself "What would Del Shannon do?" It will get me in trouble for sure one day.

Lois Winston said...

I know the feeling, Deb. I started Anastasia's blog to work up buzz for my upcoming series, and I blog as Anastasia (, I'm finding that often the lines between my life and her life are blurring. And of course, it gets worse as I work on future books in the series. Talk about split personality! I just hope I don't start stumbling over dead bodies.

Cricket McRae said...

Hilarious, Deb! You are truly -- and impressively -- devoted.

The sorts of things I've done at signings are pale by comparison -- like hauling in baskets of wool and my wheel and offering spinning lessons to anyone who was interested.

And like Darrell, I talk to my characters in the car. I figure since so many people have hands-free cell phones, I can ignore the funny looks.
Hearth Cricket

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Wait...there's a *name* for the floaty stuff that ballerinas wear? :)

Alan Orloff said...

Deb, you crack me up!

I'm thinking about putting together a short stand-up routine to promote the Last Laff books, far, not too funny. I should have written a series about a boring homebody.

Deborah Sharp said...

Ha! Alan, I do NOT buy that boring homebody routine. You're a uproariously funny homebody.
Elizabeth: Yep, tulle. Who knew?
Cricket: Hauling that spinning wheel around vs. testing alcohol-spiked bridal punch recipes for Mama? Maybe I don't have it so bad.
Lois: Stumbling over dead bodies might be a good career move!
Darrell: After you ask, what would Del do?, do you do the same or opposite?
Sue Ann: Just so long as it's FAKE blood ....
Thanks for the comments, y'all!

Terri Bischoff said...

Being that I read all the Ink books - I have all those characters in my head! But, I also have to force characters/plot lines in the background as I move from book to book. Kinda crazy in my head.

And Darrell - I just want you to know that I do not believe that MI has a policy for posting bail, so please make sure you don't do all the crazy things Del would do. ;)

Carol Grace said...

Deb, what fun you must have had getting married, how many - five times? I haven't opened a pie shop yet but I've rolled enough crusts, peeled enough apples, baked enough meringues - almost as many as my alter-ego Hanna in A Good Day to Pie.

Alice Loweecey said...

My husband gives me that look and the "they're not real people, honey" speech. A lot. I chuckle. He likes being asked to block ficht scenesm though. And snuggly scenes.

Deborah Sharp said...

Alice: Awwwww, snuggly scenes. Sweet!
Carol: Thank goodness I only ''met'' my Mama character when she was on marriage No. 5. I think I'd rather make Hannah's pies than marry that many men!
Terri: Not sure that's what you like to hear from your editor, that she's ''crazy in (her) head.'' ;-) Don't worry, we know you're not. Are you???

Keith Raffel said...

Good post, Deb. Do you remember the scene at the end of King of Hearts? I might be crazy and delusional but I like it.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I loved the clip, Deb! Keep having fun with it--it's infectious!