Today's guest is Elizabeth Craig, writer of several cozy mysteries series put out by Penguin and Midnight Ink. She writes one of my favorite mystery blogs, Mystery Writing is Murder, and is definitely my favorite person on Twitter -- where she tweets lots of links to great posts and articles about writing and mystery she finds on the web.
Elizabeth will tell us about a secondary character in her Memphis Barbeque series: Cherry, a docent at Graceland who is fond of wearing a motorcycle helmet, even when she's not on a bike.
Camille: First, what made you create Cherry?
Elizabeth: I needed someone outrageous, someone that my protagonist could play straight-man to. I lived in Alabama for years and we'd get the most horrible storms there--destructive tornadoes that would frequently strike in the middle of the night. I had neighbors who made me smile with their tornado plan--they'd sit in their basement with their bike helmets on their heads. Somehow, this little strand from my past ended up working its way into my secondary character.
Camille: Sounds like Cherry is partly there to bring out your main character. How does she reflect or contrast with Lulu?
Elizabeth: Cherry is a little flashy, a little outrageous. She says things that Lulu might only think. She offers a completely different perspective on the suspects and the mystery that are useful to Lulu as she tries to solve the case.
Cherry also shares a similar or complementary sense of humor with my protagonist, which leads to fun dialogue exchanges between the two. I think she makes my protagonist funnier than she might ordinarily be. But Cherry is also outrageous and doesn't have much of a filter when she talks--she embarrasses Lulu sometimes and sets up minor conflict.
Camille: What makes her special to you?
Elizabeth: She's eccentric. I think most writers are eccentric, too, and that trait is just really approachable and endearing to me. This is also a character who can help drive the plot, screw up, save the day....she's multi-purpose.
Camille: Do you have more planned for Cherry?
Elizabeth: Cherry was introduced in Delicious and Suspicious, the first book in the Memphis Barbeque series. But she strong-armed me into more of a sidekick role for the Delicious sequel, Finger Lickin’ Dead. Originally, I hadn't planned on including her as much because she's one of those characters that could become a scene-stealing, stage-hog. Keeping that in mind, I was careful to work on the dynamics between Cherry and my protagonist, Lulu, so that Lulu didn't fade away during her stage time with Cherry. Since she behaved herself well in the second book, Cherry also figures fairly prominently in Hickory Smoked Homicide, my upcoming November release.
Elizabeth’s latest book, Finger Lickin’ Dead, released June 7th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.
She also keeps the Writer's Knowledge Base--the Search Engine for Writers, and you can find her on Twitter: @elizabethscraig
(For those interested in reading more of these secondary character interviews, I used to do them on Wednesdays and didn't always call them "Character Friday" -- so the best way to find them all is to click on the "interview" label in the footer of this post.)