Thank you so very much to the Gail Borden Library in Elgin for hosting me last Thursday night and hugs and kisses to the incredible trio of librarians who facilitated my visit: Denise, Liz and Tish. You made me feel so welcome and comfortable enough to endure The Big Questions from my charming interviewer, Robert K. Elder, writer and editor-in-chief and vice president of Digital Content for the Sun-Times Media Local. Being interviewed in front of an audience must be a bit like having sex in public (not that I've ever done that!): 1) it helps if you're a bit of an exhibitionist and 2) you really feel under pressure to do it right.
And an especially BIG thank you to Rob for asking the questions that made me sound reasonably intelligent!
It's a little disconcerting to hear a character that you've created called "unlikeable," even if you have used those very same words to describe that character (hastening, of course, to soften the harshness of it by adding the qualifier "at times"). Like a prodigal child, it would be a sad character indeed whose author did not love him or her unconditionally. I admit I love all my characters, even the particularly nasty ones. I suspect that is because each contains at least a sliver of my own personality. That being said, I would not expect a reader to love them all and there are at least one or two who should provoke feelings of, if not hate, then at least intense dislike, however momentary and however much the reader reminds him or herself that "this is only make believe." (Although characters in novel often bring to mind people that we know and love/hate in our very real lives -- at least if the author has done her job.)
It's also a bit disconcerting because these judgments seem to come much more heavily on female characters than males. Roxane Gay wrote an excellent essay for BuzzFeed on this very topic: Not Here to Make Friends. The debate rages between the pro-likeables and the pro-unlikeables, with well-thought arguments on both sides, but one fact seems to be established: we love our difficult men (Don Draper, Hamet, MacBeth, Charles Foster Kane to name a few); women, not so much.
But I myself am in a light-hearted mood today, after having spent an absolutely exhilarating evening with a book club made up of lovely ladies from Des Plaines, IL. Listening to their insights and takes on the characters in my book reinforced my belief that what the reader brings to and thus takes away from a story is just as important, if not more, than what a writer puts in. Reading a book is a conversation; it always goes two ways. And that's thrilling. So I decided to approach the "likeability" factor with a touch of humor (I hope). After all, I want you to like me!
So, based on my opinion that:
1) my not-so-darling character Claire Sokol has her flaws, but that those flaws make her very human; and
2) there's at least a little bit of Claire in almost every human being on the planet;
I have created a quiz on Playbuzz.com so that you may take to find out just how "Claire" you are!
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.