I’ve always admired writers who create stories that they clearly made up. We all know they were never Civil War soldiers, never traveled to the rings of Saturn. Chances are sexy pirates haven’t been ripping their bodices lately. They have to use their…what do you call that thing?…oh, yes, their imaginations. Or at the very least, the internet.
Me? I keep it local. My heroines have a way of being a lot like, well – me. In my first novel my leading lady worked in advertising. What a coincidence! I worked in advertising. In my memoir I was the leading lady so advertising showed up there, too. And now we have Molly Hallberg. She doesn’t work in advertising. She’s branched out. Sort of.
Molly is the heroine in my just-out-now novel, What Nora Knew, the Nora being Nora Ephron and Molly being a cynical journalist who’s fearless in everything but love. Molly works for an online magazine that’s a cross between Jezebel and Gawker. She’s assigned to write about romance in the style of Nora Ephron and flunks out major-big-time. Three hundred pages later Nora’s movies (and a Tom Hanks of a guy) help Molly open up to love, which is wonderful news for Molly, but meanwhile Ms. Yellin the Author has to send Ms. Hallberg the journalist on magazine assignments. The Civil War’s not an option. Neither’s outer space. That leaves reality. And in my case, efficiency.
I write articles for More magazine. If you’ve never read it you really should because 1. It’s a cool and informative magazine and 2. You’ll know what I’m referring to when I say I get all the wacky assignments. I’ve walked around New York wearing kegel underpants (silicone plug in the crotch…that’s all you need to know); snuck vibrators disguised as cosmetics through security scanners at the Family and Civil court buildings; danced with Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall; and rode a bicycle for three days forsaking all other modes of transportation. (The last was done as a preview of what it would be like if New York adopted a bike program. And now look what’s happened!)
So when Molly needed assignments for her job, she borrowed them from me. I was researching my novel before I even knew I’d be writing the novel. Talk about efficient! No need to turn off the computer while I spent a day walking around with a fake tattoo on my eyelid winking at strangers. (Molly was lucky enough to avoid that assignment. I, however, was not.) No time lost while I paused to jump out of an airplane. (I have jumped out of an airplane, but of my own volition, not for any editors. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And came in handy for Molly.)
Unlike Molly, I have never posed nude for art students in Soho. Mainly because nobody has ever asked. For that scene I did resort to my imagination, and the good news is, once there, I could firm up my thighs and give myself a much perkier butt. So really, there might be something to this imagination angle.
I’m not sure what my next heroine will do for a living. Maybe she’ll marry a nice Civil War soldier who can rip her bodice while on a spaceship to Saturn. I’ll have to get back to you on that.