There’s a game children play with either pictures or words: which things are the same? Which are different? (Table. Dog. Mouse. Cheese. Which is different?) More advanced versions appear on SAT tests. My kids and I sometimes played that game at the dinner table. (Yes: I was that kind of mom.)
Authors play the game, too, but with characters. Is the father in the book like HER father? Did HIS brother really beat him up as a kid? Did SHE ever live in Iceland, like her character?
Because I’ve now written eight books about protagonist Maggie Summer, and because, yes, there are some similarities in our lives (confession: first books are often like that, and SHADOWS AT THE FAIR, the first in this series, was also the first full book I wrote.) I’m often asked, simply, “Are you Maggie?”
I always say,
No! She’s younger and braver than I am.”
And yet — Maggie and I have a lot in common, too.
So here’s the scoop: the truth about Maggie and me.
Maggie has an older brother. I have two younger sisters.
Maggie grew up in Summit, New Jersey, and graduated from Montclair State. She has a doctorate in American Studies. I grew up in Maine and Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and graduated from Chatham College in Pittsburgh and have a doctorate without dissertation from New York University — in American Studies.
Maggie teaches at a community college in New Jersey. I’ve never taught more than a workshop, but I did work for a corporation in New Jersey. We both lived in Somerset County.
Maggie is five feet six inches tall and has long brown hair. I’m five feet two and, most of my life, had long blonde hair. (Bonus information: I just cut it.)
Maggie owns and operates an antique print business called “Shadows.” For about thirty years I had an antique print business, too: “MAH Antiques.” Now I write full-time.
Maggie was widowed when she was 37. (The Shadows series begins when she’s 38.) I’ve never been widowed, but I was divorced in my twenties.
Maggie has a cat, Winslow Homer. I (now) have a cat, Shadow. (I didn’t have a cat when I started the series … but there are all kinds of research!)
Maggie drinks diet Pepsi and Dry Sack sherry. I don’t drink soda, but Dry Sack is my special treat. Yum!
Maggie wants to adopt an older child as a single parent. I adopted four girls, ages 5-10, as a single parent.
Maggie’s prospective daughter is from Maine. My daughters were born in Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and India.
Maggie’s in love with a guy who doesn’t want to be a father. Yup, me too. I ended up marrying him after my daughters were grown up.
Maggie moved from New Jersey to Maine when she was forty. I became a full-time, all-season Maine resident when I moved from New Jersey at fifty-two.
Maggie can shoot. Nope, not me.
Maggie solves crimes. I only do that fictionally.
Maggie is stubborn, and hopeful about the future. I hope I am, too!
And — to find out more about Maggie (and maybe me,) check out the series! The books take place approximately three months apart, during two years. In order, they are:
Shadows at the Fair
Shadows on the Coast of Maine
Shadows on the Ivy
Shadows at the Spring Show
Shadows of a Down East Summer
Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding
Shadows on a Maine Christmas
Shadows on a Morning in Maine
Thank you for the insight, Lea. If you scratch a main character, there’s apt to be a bit of the author beneath, or perhaps a bit of who the author wants to be. It’s a fine line.
Interesting how alike and how different authors are from their characters.
Very nice post, Lea!
This is so interesting. Even though I know most of it, there were still some tidbits…
Like you my first protagonist, Police Chief Ruth Murphy was an idealized version of me. Now that I’m writing a thirty-year-old, there’s more of a space between us.
How brave you are to put all that stuff about yourself out! I just like to lurk and hide…
Your similar experiences sure make the books interesting.
Thank you, everyone! I’ll add … Maggie was my first protagonist, so she has a lot of me in her. My more recent books are definitely all fiction!