Friday, December 5, 2008

Characters, Characters, Everywhere

By Robin Kaye

I'm often asked if people I know end up as characters in my books. I always give an unequivocal answer. Yes but no.  Or I say well, sort of, but not really. Let explain what I mean.  Take for instance, one of my favorite characters, Rosalie, Annabelle and Rich Ronaldi's Aunt Rose Albertini in Romeo, Romeo.

Aunt Rose is sharp, funny, quick with a hug or a slap upside the head, and she's psychic. No one in the Ronaldi household comes out and says so--though Annabelle has been known to call Rose a witch--but everyone knows Aunt Rose definitely has a gift.

When I was a child, my mother had a psychic friend who, for some reason, honed in on me. I didn't meet her until I was in my twenties, but she's been ratting me out to my mother since I was about eight years old.  No matter where I lived, it was as if my mother had someone following me around and reporting to her.

I remember one day when I was about seventeen. I was living in Pennsylvania with my father and hanging around with a very interesting crowd. My mother lived in Florida at the time and called me, very upset. Never one to beat around the bush, she immediately accused me of hanging around with a blonde-haired boy who drove a white Toyota hatchback and was doing drugs. I was too dumbfounded to deny it. "How do you know this?" I asked. All she said was, "I have my sources."

About seven years later at my sister's wedding, I met mother's "source" when I was introduced to Millie. She took my hand, looked at me with a devilish twinkle her kind eyes, and said, "I've known you since you were a young child." She then recounted several of my lesser-known escapades and had a good laugh at my expense. Millie and I have been close friends since we met in person, though she says she's loved me since the first day she saw me.

Having a friend like Millie does take some getting used to. There is no such thing as surprising her. I'll never forget the day I called her and said "Guess what I got!" She answered. "A dog. A big black dog." I had just gotten a puppy--the inspiration for Dave, Rosalie's dog in Romeo, Romeo.  Clancy was half Black Lab, and half St. Bernard. Millie's timing was a little off since Clancy was all of ten pounds the day we brought her home, but just like Millie said, she became a dog, a big black dog. Clancy topped 150 pounds before she was a year and a half old.

Millie is incredibly talented, smart, sassy, funny and she has a so many gifts, only one of which is being psychic. I'm so lucky to have her in my life, but I don't mind saying that I'm thrilled that she's no longer ratting out.  She's assured me that she'll gladly rat out my kids the same way she did me--something I remind them repeatedly. My kids, however, know Millie as Aunty Midge, and they're smart enough to watch their Ps and Qs. The sad part is, she said my kids are a lot better than I was--but I bet they're not as much fun.

Aunt Rose isn't Millie. The two are very different and when I think about it, there's little about them that is alike…except that they're both Italian, both psychic, and people who meet them love them immediately. 

Are there any characters in your life you would like to see in a book? Or if you're a writer, do people you know end up in your books?   


  1. Robin Kaye is a wonderful, fun, funny woman! She has earned her repertoire of tales and each ounce of success!

  2. Thanks for sharing your inspiration for Aunt Rose, Robin. I loved her in Romeo and hope she makes an appearance in Too Hot to Handle.

    I needed a cast of seniors for one of my books and looked no further than my dad and his friends. Nothing I could've made up would've been quite as good as the real thing. However, I told them I changed the names to protect the guilty.

    Look forward to seeing you tomorrow!!!

  3. I blogged a couple of days ago about my friend Diane whose character and life helped me develope Davy, the hero of my WIP.

    However, if you're asking are there any living people who have been cast in a role...I've denied it, and I'll keep on denying it.

    You Mille sounds like a character indeed. And a wonderful friend.

  4. Hi April~ Wow, you've given me my first smile of the morning! Thanks for the great complement!


    Aunt Rose is definitely in Too Hot To Handle, and I she's in Becoming Mr. Perfect too. I just love her to death.

    MM~ I think using the character traits of the people I love is the most sincere form of flattery. At least that's the way I mean it...usually.

    Robin :)

  5. People I know end up in some form in the books I write. Now, if i could only get the books published, then they could complain to me. ;-)

  6. I have a neighbor who has figured prominently in several of my unpublished works. She's a former flight attendant, current massage therapist who is now studying shamanism. Added to that, she has something pithy to say on any topic, and is a little on the psychic side.
    I've used lots of other people as the basis for characters, but as you know, once you begin writing, they take on a life of their own.

  7. Thanks for sharing your fun, witty story. In my own books, characters are often composites of people I've met. Like a recipe, I take a little of this and a pinch of that to create a whole new person.

    Best of luck for success with Romeo, Romeo! I enjoyed reading your book.

    Best--Adele Dubois

  8. Wow...if I knew someone like Millie, I'd have to include her in a book somehow too!

    I don't model characters on people I know overall, but I have been known to steal interesting character traits I've encountered. Thanks for sharing your friend with us!

  9. It is true, people you meet do provide ideas for characters. The shy, the extrovert, the annoying. After all what is a writer but a reflection writ larger than life.

    This is a great insight into one of our characters and character development.

    Fun post Robin.

  10. Robin,
    Romeo Romeo sounds fun. I loved your blog. Man, how neat to have someone like Millie. Great character base. As far as using people I know in my stories, I use traits, but never the person. I wish your latest release every success! Happy Holidays!

    Diana Cosby
    His Captive/Alexander MacGruder
    His Woman/December 08/Duncan MacGruder - 4 star Romantic Times review!

  11. People I know are always inspiring characters in what I write. When I get closer to my release date, I may invite some of them to make an appearance on the blog. Until then, let me just say that reading about your friend Millie has made my day. What an amazing and mysterious and enviable (or not?) gift she has.

  12. Many do. Names changed to protect the guilty and the inncoent.

    Friends are used to ending up or something that happened in their lives ends up as a scene, such as the time I used a friend's speeding ticket.

    And now, friends let me know about people they want revenge on and they end up as gross creatures.


  13. Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

    Diana~ It is neat having someone like Millie now- when I was a kid though, not so much.

    Walt, don't give up. Until you're published, I guess you'll just have to settle for your wife complaining about you. LOL BTW, Walt wrote this great MS called "Honey You're Annoying Me: Coping With 49 Irritating Man-erisms." It's wonderful. I laughed my way though it.

    Adele~ Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by.

    Cheryl - Your neighbor sounds great!

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    Robin :)

  14. Robin, I am habitually late! My only excuse to the Casablanca Authors (you ladies rock and congrats on your award by the way) is I've been writing. Fascinating topic, Robin. Interesting enough a college professor once marked a student down in his creative writing class because the prof couldn't identify with the student's characters. When the student complained, and said, "But they're real." The prof said, Exactly and they're ordinary."

    So what we have to do as writers is take these someone interesting real life characters who inspire us and add a little paprika. After seasoning them, they become Real and three-dimensional. As for a character who inspired me, I know firsthand it was a vice narcotics commander who instructed us in the Citizens' Academy. Wearing a pink, multi-colored tie-dyed T-shirt into the class, with this marvelous twinkle, he was such an non-stereotypical cop, he provided a huge impetus for my book I took this personality and made him my own. Much like you did with your characters. Great post! Sorry to ramble ;)

  15. I think I steal bits, more like Kendra. Although the truth is that I do not consciously do it. Actually, I have several characters that are influenced to various degrees by characters in someone else's book! And I don't mean Austen. LOL!

    I loved Aunt Rose and am happy to hear that she has not retired from Robin Kaye books. Cool!

  16. Thanks Donnell and Sharon~

    Donnell~ That Vice Cop wasn't named Mike, was he? I used to date a guy like him!. LOL Now that I think about it, Mike was DEA...close but no cigar - He was a real character though.

    And your exactly right about adding a little spice, or in my case, add a little of Millie.

    Thanks for your great comment. Feel free to ramble any time, Donnell.


    Robin :)

  17. Funny you should ask! My first submission was about a woman who has premonitions and is afraid of storms. The reason I could write so easily about those two subjects? My own experience.

    Was the hero patterned after my husband, unfortunately not, lol.

    And after reading the excerpt and reviews, I can't wait to read Romeo, Romeo.