Sunday, June 15, 2014

Call Me Crazy

One of the main reasons I write is to get the crazy out. I’m not just talking about wild ideas, rants about the universe, or a need to share experiences. No. I am talking about getting to say and do all the things I would never say or do in real life. 
 Most writers limit the crazy to supporting characters. My crazy comes out in my heroes. You know, the one that is secretly me.

My first novel, 66 Laps, was inspired by my desire to throttle a model/mom who pointed out my first gray hair during a play-date for our toddlers. I wanted to slap the bitch. Guess what the first line of that novel is? “I slapped the bitch.” That reaction led to grave consequences for Audrey. While I smiled and let the comment slide, but poor Audrey’s identity issues made her the kind of character who reacted, so she was also the kind of person who would react to larger things. In fact, when she thought her husband was having an affair, she allowed herself to be seduced by a younger man. Unfortunately, tragedy ensued. Poor Audrey. But me? My only consequences were a literary prize and a contract with Random House.
Clearly, crazy was working. In my next novel, Wife Goes On, there are four protagonists, so I spread the crazy around. There’s an overworked mom who gets to rule the world, a ball busting lawyer who wears designer clothes, an actress who humiliates off her cheating ex on national TV, and a sweet young ex-football wife who sells sex toys. They become they kind of friends we all need. And they do crazy things that I’ve only imagined.

In What A Mother Knows, I explore the impulse to kill someone who threatens my daughter. You’ll have to read the book to find out if I did. I mean, if Michelle did. But that’s not all. The character faces all my worst nightmares and comes out okay. She also gets to have a makeover, a fabulous love affair, and a new career. See the pattern?

The greatest challenge to this method is that editors sometimes complain that my main character needs to start out more “likeable ." When they say that, it’s hard not to be insulted – they are talking about me. Then I realize they just need to see more of the real, boring me before they meet the hell raiser reacting to a gray hair, a divorce, or a threatened child.

So far I’ve gotten to swear, have an affair, come very close to committing murder, and have a happy ending.
Call me crazy, but it works. 
Check out the film trailer for What A Mother Knows, email me about a book club visit, or read my NYT Modern Love column at

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  1. You're a new to me author and your books sound right up my alley! :) Looking them up!

  2. Love this, Leslie! I always say I write to figure out the world, but I like the way you put it: we write to get the crazy out!!

  3. Love this! I might have to try your methods. All my characters make me wanna do is shop for their wardrobes and cars. I *sometimes* resist.

  4. Not only do our characters get to do all the crazy things we're too civilized to do, but they also get to say all the clever things we never think of until it's too late. I love living through my characters!

  5. Leslie, remind me to never, ever point out a gray hair to you, and to always stay on the lookout for your next novel of crazy. Couldn't stop WHAT A MOTHER KNOWS until I reached the last page. And, for the record, you;re at least three football fields away from boring.