There is a saying—or threat—among authors that if you make us angry enough, we’ll put you in one of our books and kill you off in a most horrid but satisfying manner. Well, I’ve never put anyone in my books and killed them off—in fact, I’ve only killed two people off in all of my 12 titles. However, I have put people I know into my books.
In Sugar Magnolia, my contemporary about the music industry, I got permission to put hip-hop artist Deploi and music legend Dr. John into cameo spots with speaking roles. These were small parts but depicted what I had seen in both when I had interacted with them at different times of my life. They were both positive showcases.
I have also crafted characters around people I’ve met and who I appreciated their appearance or energy. In Warrior Women, book 3 of my 6-part fantasy series about the Bowdancer, I created one character from someone I know and shaped her into who she became and later had her appear in three more Bowdancer books. The character Bekar, the fearless master hunter, came from an encounter I had with Canadian multi-musician Lyndale Montgomery. I’d arranged for her and her partner Ember Swift to appear at a local coffeehouse on their way to another gig. This was a sing-for-gas-money gig and necessary for them to get to their next bigger playing gig. I’d followed the band for a bit and was happy to help.
Lyndale showed up with Ember and another woman who played drums, and I was struck by how she had changed her appearance. She had long hair and had shaved half her head on one side. It was a startling look. When I crafted Bekar, I put in that look, except the warrior woman’s hair on the other side was shorter, and I embued her with Lyndale’s energy—or what I perceived of her at that time. Many years later, I admitted to Lyndale that I’d put her into one of my books.
The inspiration for the next-door neighbor in my horror short, The Neighbor, was someone I actually lived next door to. I had wondered when I lived in that building whether that woman was trying to become me. Thus, the story was born years later.
In The Premier, another contemporary but about Hollywood, I fashioned the male love interest on an actor I had admired. It wasn’t him in the book but my take on a what-if moment if I’d been a writer who’d met someone like him.
And the rock star wanting to make a comeback in Sugar Magnolia was based very loosely on a 60s performer and then was given a whole lot of nasty qualities. He was fun to write, though creepy at the same time.
My Ruins series began with the shaping of the character Paul in Discovery. I’d seen this native or Hispanic gentleman at a convenience store in Arizona 40 years ago. I was intrigued by his appearance and quickly wrote a novella with him in it that later on became Discovery. I had not yet gone back to school to get my anthropology degree and knew very little about the science of archaeology when that first draft was written. It remained in a drawer for 30 years until I pulled it out and expanded it into a full-length book, which was eventually published. Artifacts came on the coattails of that book and had no further inspiration from people I know, except I had a stronger understanding of archaeology then.
The most recent book in the Ruins series, Legacy, came out in September, and it has three people in it that I know. I crafted Dutch Acuna, the lady owner of the horse ranch where most of the action takes place, on my good friend Ann. That character is so like Ann it really could have been her doing all those things in the book. But Dutch has knowledge Ann doesn’t have. Dutch is a midwife and knows herbs. Ann knows herbs and does a lot of homeopathic remedies, but she’d never feel as comfortable as Dutch does around a pregnant woman.
Another minor character is Isaac Wichowski, the big angelic, Hispanic farrier in Legacy. He’s based on my good friend Alexander who is indeed a farrier and who gave me so much great information about horses for the book. Isaac and Alexander are just as cheeky, but kind to a fault!
Finally, there is Toni, the love interest in Legacy. She’s native and knows about the politics of academia. She’s also deeply spiritual. I based her character on a woman I met for 20 minutes 6 years ago. That woman’s energy was so spiritually positive and so very old inside a young body. I was impressed and began to weave a character based on that energy into this book. She wasn’t even an original idea for that book but, as I did research and sat with the story line, she came to it and walked its pages. I’m glad I put her into the book.
I do have another Ruins book I’ll be working on soon, and I’m not sure who will inspire me. I do have a law enforcement friend I’ve been threatening to put into a book and make her a womanizing sheriff. We’ll see.
As a tribute to people I know I’ve put in books, I’ll be giving away a digital copy of Ruins Legacy to one lucky winner who posts a comment about this blog.
Kate Ferguson’s life is crumbling around her as she is shoved out of her ten-year-old son’s life as he prepares for his testing to be the next shaman. Relegated to babysitting a pregnant woman she doesn’t even know in an unfamiliar place, she is bombarded by her son’s growing abilities and her own, dark secrets, strange revelations, spiritual trials, and an intriguing female ranch hand who challenges everything she knows.
The book is still on special at all of these locations:
MuseItUp Publishing (You can get all formats here in one download.):
Barnes and Noble:
If you live in Australia, you can get the book at Angus & Robertson:
About the Author
Janie Franz comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with deep roots in East Tennessee. Her anthropology degree is a refection of her wide curiosity. She is an author, a professional speaker, the US acquisition editor and a content editor for MuseItUp Publishing, an academic editor, ghostwriter, and reviewer. Previously, she published an online music publication (Refrain Magazine) and was an agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, a radio announcer, a yoga/relaxation instructor, a music festival publicist, and private chef.
She is the author of twelve titles with MUSE, a freelance writing manual, co-author of two wedding how-to books, and a self-help book. “Refrain,” Book 2 of The Lost Song trilogy, was a Top 10 Finisher, Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 2013 Preditors & Editors Reader Poll. She lives in Santa Fe where she writes fantasy, archeology thrillers, paranormal, and contemporaries—and can be found on a dance floor.