52 Pick-up 2.0, #23, 6/16/2020
Pamela Murphy: “How did Judy feel when you killed off Martha before even beginning the story? Did you promise her a reincarnation as Vic? Walt is so much you… Vic is so much Judy, was Martha the sadness that had potential to be lightened with Vic?”
Hi, Pamela. Wow, good question.
Judy realizes she makes up a whopping percentage of the female characters in my books, no matter which ones they are. There are aspects of her in just about all of them, but certainly in Martha and then Vic. When I was putting together the components of who Walt was going to be, I figured he was going to be a truly impressive individual, a formidable protagonist—not perfect, but a force to be reckoned with. Then I did what I think a lot of authors do, tried to figure a way of crippling him. It sounds horrible, but there has to be something that takes him down a notch and keeps him human. I didn’t have to go far in looking for a way of doing that, and just asked myself what the one thing was that would have the greatest effect on me?
Losing my wife, Judy. I didn’t want Walt looking back on some Hallmark Channel, perfect love story, but a real, honest to goodness, working relationship that came with all the pitfalls and problems that a modern marriage carries. That having been said, Martha was a ghost in Walt’s life when we first meet him. As Henry reminds him, it’s been five years and Walt needs to get his act together.
I don’t think Judy took it personally, other than a reaffirmation of my feelings for her.
There were no promises made when I started writing the books, so the character of Vic was free to grow in any way I saw fit, but she is mostly the counter-opposite of Walt in that she’s female, urban, profane, technologically advanced—and then the traits she shares with Walt, she’s dogged, fearless and plenty smart.
Voices are always the crucial part of a character for me. I’m always telling students that generally you only get to describe a character physically once in a novel, but they’re going to speak the entire way through. That’s where readers who know Judy really see the similarities. “Oh, when I read that one line, I could just hear Judy…”
Yep, I think Vic provides the ladder that allows him to climb out of the morass of depression that threatens to overwhelm him on a daily basis. I don’t see Walt ever getting over the loss of Martha, but he has to get on with his life if for no other reason than for his daughter Cady and granddaughter Lola–the living embodiments of his life with Martha.
But it’s Vic who challenges Walt and keeps him on his toes. I’m consistently amazed when readers write and want me to kill Vic off or get rid of her. I’m assuming they’re upset by her profanity, but she really is an intrinsic part of the stories and if they can’t see past the coarseness of language to a person who would gladly give her life to keep Walt safe, then they’re kind of missing the point.
There are also people who take umbrage with the on-again-off-again relationship between Walt and Vic, whether it’s the age difference or the fact that they work together. In response to that I have to say that chronological age is the last thing I take into consideration when considering relationships, and the other? Well, if you don’t think that affairs pop up in the workplace then you must be working in a particularly sterile environment.
Anyway, I think Vic is one of the things that keep Walt going, but the very pleasant memories of Martha linger. All in all, I think Judy sees it as complimentary…
See you on the trail,