Monday, June 27, 2011

Multiple Personalities?

A guest post by Clare O'Donohue.

Clare O’Donohue is a freelance television writer and producer. She has worked worldwide on a variety of shows for Food Network,the History Channel, and truTV, among others. Missing Persons* marks the debut of the Kate Conway mystery series. She is also the author of The Lover’s Knot, A Drunkard’s Path, The Double Cross and The Devil’s Puzzle (Oct. 2011) in the Someday Quilts series. O’Donohue lives in Chicago, IL.

My first three books, all part of the Someday Quilts series, were light mysteries. People were murdered, sure, but it wasn’t anything to get upset about. My main character from that series, Nell Fitzgerald, is nosy but she’s polite. She makes quilts, she hangs out with a multi-generational group of woman, and she’s dating a guy that anyone would be happy to bring home to meet the folks.

My fourth book, Missing Persons*, features Kate Conway. Kate is nothing like Nell. In fact, my guess is she wouldn’t even like her. Kate is sarcastic and a little bitter. She covers her vulnerability with cynicism, and she isn’t afraid to lie or manipulate if it gets her what she wants.

One of the comments I’ve heard from friends, reviewers and fans of my first three books is that it’s hard to believe both series are written by the same person. If characters are extensions of the writer’s personality, my friends say, then I must have multiple personality disorder.

I’m fine with that. Just as I don’t think most actors want to play the same part their whole careers (except maybe Susan Lucci), I don’t think most writers want to write from the same point of view all the time. Even a series that goes on for years grows and changes, and the author introduces new characters that bring different life experiences, different attitudes, different methods of getting rid of a body….

And isn’t that the fun of it? I love my Nell character, and her genesis may be in my years of quilting and my fantasies about small town life, but she isn’t me. Kate shares my profession (TV producer) and a tendency to make a joke out of everything, but she isn’t me either.

My characters live in different places (Nell in the fictional small town of Archers Rest, and Kate in the very real Chicago) and they have different interests (Nell quilts with a group of close friends, Kate tries to avoid human contact through TV and take-out).

The fact that these women see the world through very different eyes, isn’t the hard part. It’s the fun part. Through my characters I can have new experiences, or relive old ones – I can be 26 again, worried about my career and sharing a first kiss, or I can be facing down the cop who thinks I might be a killer. I can be rude, virginal, angry, generous… I can be smarter than I actually am. And much, much braver. One mystery series couldn’t do or say everything I want, so why not have two?

Like a pretzel dipped in chocolate, the opposite tastes actually improve each other. Which only makes me wonder what perhaps a third series, with another new character could bring to the mix. Or a fourth….

My friends may be right. Maybe I do have multiple personality disorder.

*Tomorrow on Stuff and Nonsense, a review of Missing Persons. I also have a copy to give away to one person who comments here or on tomorrow's review. U.S. entries only, please. Deadline is midnight on Saturday, July 2nd.


  1. I love the pretzel dipped in chocolate analogy. Peanuts and candy corn. Popcorn and hot chocolate.

    Isn't the freedom to create wild and outlandish, bigger-than-life characters, one of the best things about story tellling?

    Great post, Clare. Thanks!

  2. I love the quilt series, so I wasn't too sure about the new series, but picked it up because I do enjoy your writing. I may even like it better. I actually even spit coffee at one point in the book when Kate was talking to Vera (fortunately, I was not in public at the time.) I'll be looking forward to new additions to each series. Obviously, I don't need to be considered for a free copy.

  3. I'm interesting in reading this new series, Clare.

  4. I love the Someday Quilts series, but I'm looking forward to your edgier work too. Best of luck.


  5. Thanks for the comments! Please remember to leave an email address if you'd like to be entered in the drawing.

  6. I love your perspective about living vicariously through characters! That's what was so fun about developing Detective Lara Evans. Thanks for a good post.

  7. I too have read Missing Persons and really enjoyed it. I loved the behind-the-scenes look at how true crime shows are produced. As someone who watches the ID channel when there's nothing else on I can tell you I'll be watching with these shows in a whole new way.

    I really liked Kate (warts and all) and look forward to the next mystery featuring her.

  8. Please enter me in the book drawing. I'd love to sample your work. Each of us has been/is many persons, so I imagine one can draw from these varied states of being as an artist chooses a color from her quiver of pastels.

  9. Thanks so much to everyone who has commented! I love Kate and Nell, and I've had so much fun writing about them. Hopefully I'll be able to keep splitting my personality for a long time.

  10. I'm also a big fan of the Someday Quilts series since I'm a "cozy fan". But your new series sounds interesting. please enter my name into the drawing for a copy. Thanks for a fun interview.
    pennyt at hotmail dot com


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