Today, I have the great privilege of visiting Romance Novel Giveaways. They asked for a little peek behind the scenes and I knew exactly what to talk about…
When creating a character, you never expect for the movie Stranger Than Fiction to happen to you and your protagonist to walk right into your life and offer you a delicious sandwich. (What? You’ve never seen Stranger than Fiction? Go fix that. I’ll wait here.)
But, it happened to me not too long after I started putting words on paper for what is now Chef’s Table. I had Patrick down. His physicality. His background. His personality. His accent. His swagger. He was as real to me as any character is after about 10K words can be.
I went to lunch with a friend to “that new deli in town,” completely unaware of the purveyor and what delights awaited me there. I heard him first. “Whadaya want on that? Deli mustard? Honey mustard, mayo, gourmaise, horseradish?” His words flew, his accent thick, his smile bright, and his food—unmatched, especially in the area I live where going to BW3 is a fancy night out.
We each got a free cannoli that day, because everyone gets a free cannoli on their first visit. And he knows if it’s your first visit. He remembers everyone. I’ve talked about Richie a little before, but he deserves more than one post.
Richie is not Patrick. And Patrick is not Richie. But that day, and numerous days since, I am taken with how they feed into each other. How my imagination spins and Richie, by virtue of being himself, walks right in and makes it come alive. Richie’s Italian; Patrick’s Irish. Richie is a happy newlywed to a beautiful lady he met in town who matches his vibrancy and takes him to task at every opportunity; Patrick is gay. Richie’s slight where Patrick is more bulked up. Richie is a bit more brash than I’d expect Patrick to be, but if you ever rearrange the tables at Patrick’s restaurant, I can imagine you’d be met with a loud, “Hey, hey, HEY!” a smile and a quiet, direct request to kindly put his furniture back where you found it–just like you would at Richie’s.
And the best part of it all, after eating there regularly, I got the courage to ask Richie for some help with my book. To spend “an hour at most, I promise,” interviewing him for some finer details of who he was, how he ended up in my little town after being the pastry chef at Marriott Marquis Times Square, and to get any anecdotes he might have to help bring the book to life. We spent three hours together that afternoon and another couple of hours for a subsequent interview when I needed a little more fact checking. I also get free dessert. The best cakes, cookies and brownies you’ll find anywhere. Also, his cannoli is better than any Italian bakery I’ve tried. As is his sfogliatelle.
Every time I walk into his deli, he asks about the progress of the book. He celebrates the victories along the way and wants links to everything he can get his hands on to see it all happen. Next to my family, he’s my number one fan and the guy hasn’t read a word I’ve written yet.
Every writer admits that people they know inspire characters, but when it goes the other way, when your character comes to life right in front of you, well it’s inspiring indeed.
Now that you’re all itching for your own personal Richie, head on over to Romance Novel Giveaways to enter, not a Richie, but a $25 gift certificate and a chance to win a copy Chef’s Table.