When a reader asked if the lead character in LOVE, DEATH & SO ON was me, I admit I was a tad taken aback. Since many of the protagonists are based on the doll creations by Robert Tonner, I didn’t see myself as Penelope Brewster at all.
Sure, she is fair-skinned and light-haired—and so am I. Yep, she came from Brooklyn. (Ditto with me.) And she is a walking encyclopedia of Turner Classic Movie trivia. Your Honor, I plead guilty to that as well.
Still, I didn’t envision myself as Penelope. I thought of her as a young woman who is bright, attractive, talented, competent, and a born people-pleaser. She’s a bit neurotic, and self-effacing, while also being fiercely creative. I share some of those traits, but I think Penelope stands on her own two feet. If she resembles me, it’s purely coincidental. She’s her own person!
However, I did imagine some famous folks when I conjured up the other characters in LOVE, DEATH & SO ON—as well as its companion short-story book, NO TIME TO WASTE.
Who, you may ask, was I envisioning when I merrily typed away? The answers might surprise you. When I was making up Benny—the towering titan of one-liners and unexpected kernels of wisdom—I pictured Nick Cannon. Anyone who watches AMERICA’S GOT TALENT knows that Cannon has quite the dramatic fashion sense (purple plaid and white turtlenecks, orange blazers and yellow pants) and he also has that special “it” factor. His joviality and likeability were among the building blocks I used to bring Benny to life. I saw Benny as a force of nature: taller than everyone, more mischievous than most, and capable of funny observations as well as truths that just need to be uttered. He was among my favorite fictional people to hang out with.
For the flighty and flirtatious Marie Antoinette—regal and raunchy, glamorous and goofy—I thought of a combination of Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris, and Amy Adams. Yep, an army of Amy’s helped me to bring the delightfully demanding (or demandingly delightful) monarch to the page. Again, I enjoyed spending hours with Antoine, but she was exhaustively full of herself. (Check out Amy S. and Amy P., arm in arm, for a Shrek movie event.)
The queen’s husband—the long-suffering King Louis XVI—is more at home in his workshop, surrounded by his gadgets and gizmos. However, he is full of insight and paternal concern for his wife’s friend and confidante, Anne de Legere. He comes through for her at, seemingly, the best possible moment. Pompous and distracted, eccentric and off-beat, socially awkward while topping the social ladder, King Louis (in LOVE, DEATH & SO ON and NO TIME TO WASTE) was influenced by Jon Lovitz in his SNL comedy days. It wasn’t so much the characters Lovitz portrayed in his late-night comedy show, but rather how he looked and conducted himself back then. Picture him “back in the day” clad in breeches and a powdered wig, and you’ve got King Louis in the flesh!
Who did you picture when you read about these characters? Did you see them my way, or in a completely different direction? I’d love to know. Write and tell me!
Stay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll give you the skinny on how some other characters were concocted.