Friday, June 16, 2017

Characters and Seasons

Donis's blog yesterday about summer reading reminded me of what I've always liked about summer. As a child (student) and as an adult (teacher), I have three months of "summer vacation." Of course, now that I'm a grown-up, I do need to use my summer to get some work done. But summer is the time when I can stay up late reading a book or go to a matinee in the middle of the day (Wonder Woman is at the top of my list).

What has changed is that I don't go outside as much as I did when I was a child. Of course, I've never been a fan of summer heat and bug bites. But growing up in the country in Virginia with a big back yard and paths through woods and dogs, I would never have thought of wasting a summer day inside. Nowadays, living in a house in the city, I've been contemplating setting up my empty (until winter) garage as an "outdoor" space. The problem with the grass in my small yard is that it might have ticks. And, besides, even with sunscreen, I could get too much sun. Grilling -- I remember those wonder family barbecues in the front yard under the big old tree. But I could blow myself up trying to start a grill and what about the health risks of hot dogs?

My seasonal preferences have carried over to my characters. My Southern-born protagonist, Lizzie Stuart, loves the South but hates heat and storms. Hannah McCabe, my police detective, lives in Albany, New York, and is dealing with the sizzling summers produced by climate change. I've set some books during the summer, but haven't had to think like a "summer person".

That brings me to my challenge with one of my major characters in my 1939 historical thriller. He lives in Georgia, and summer is his season. The heat and the sun. The smell of his own sweat. He stands out in a field watching the black clouds roll in. Then he sits on his porch with a drink watching the storm erupt.

He loves the land and the smell of the soil. If I don't capture this part of who this character is, then his motivation for the things he does will fall flat. But I need to step into his work boots.

So in answer to Donis's question about summer reading, I'm heading South with books (fiction and non-fiction) written during the 1930s. Books about summer, with heat and sweat and storms. And I'm hoping that the weather here in Albany will not echo what I'm reading.

Does your character have a favorite season? A time of year that he or she loves, but you don't?


Donis Casey said...

Your description of a Georgia summer is on the nose. Have you read Jimmy Carter's autobiography An Hour Before Daylight, about his growing up in Georgia during the Depression? It's a wonderful book and pulls no punches!

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

Thank you, Donis! I haven't read Carter's autobiography, and I am now moving it to the top of my list.

Sybil Johnson said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Summer was my least favorite season. Too hot and humid for me. I much preferred the fall. There were good things about summer, though. I got more time to read since I wasn't in school. And I loved that it got dark so late. It was fun to play outside at night.

My character grew up in a different place, the Inland Empire, so now that she lives in Vista Beach she appreciates the cooler and less smoggy area. She even likes summer, except when it gets super hot.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


I lived in Seattle for two and a half years. I loved winter in Seattle (cool, but not cold, and rainy). But I liked summer, too. I guess it never felt that hot too me because I had grown up in the South.

Sybil Johnson said...

Frankie, Seattle is definitely better in Seattle than the South. I guess it's what you're used to. It also depends on where you are in the Seattle area. I grew up about 20 miles south of Seattle in a valley that always seemed to be a bit hotter than Seattle itself. Or at least that's what it seemed to me. I like winter in Seattle, too, except for the ice problems. Not fun to drive on.