Wendelin’s Blog: http://etrtr.blogspot.com/
Wendelin Van Draanen’s website: http://www.randomhouse.com/
(go to Sammy Keyes to be able to participate in Crack the Code with Sammy Keyes)
People often ask me how I come up with the “quirky characters” in the Sammy Keyes books. Well, sometimes they just show up. Like the Elvis impersonator who works the night shift at Maynard’s Market. Sammy walked in the door and there he was. And Madame Nashira—in a cosmic poof of smoke, there she was. I love when a character appears like that. It’s surprising, and usually makes me laugh out loud. Like, yeah, you definitely belong here. Let’s go!
Sometimes the quirk in the character comes from real life. There’s nothing’s quirkier than real life. In Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen, the crazy cat lady was modeled after a woman I knew. It wasn’t the cat part—she didn’t own cats. It was the appearance part. This woman tried to look like Barbie. She had the super-bleached hair, and wore ghastly amounts of makeup and clothes that would look cute on a fifteen year old. Trouble is, she had to be around sixty. I actually liked my neighbor quite a lot. She was sweet and friendly, but she was trying so hard to hold on to her princess years that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Not sorry enough not to use her as a basis for a character, but see, that’s the thing with characters. They often start as someone you know, but after some time and a few chapters, they evolve into their own person.
But often characters acquire their quirks along the way. Like in Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary, I knew Sammy was going to come upon a hunched-over old woman who was walking along the side of the road. What I didn’t know was that this hunched-over old woman would be walking a pig. A big black pig. A big black pig with a big black bow around its neck. A pig named Penny. But there I was, typing away at my story when the pig inserted itself. I’m like, What’s this pig doing in my story? But there it was, and suddenly the hunched-over old woman had some real spunk. Some real personality. I mean, what kind of old person has a big pig as a pet? Not a boring one, that’s for sure.
Wherever they come from, I like the quirky characters the best. They make me laugh, and they make me think. I mean, what do I want to be like when I grow up? Do I want to be the kind of old lady who has a pig as a pet? Or the kind who paints her lipstick way outside the lines? Or do I just want to be rock solid like Grams.
Or maybe I’ll be the old lady riding across the parking lot on the back of the shopping cart, going “Outta my way, sonny! I’m comin’ through!”
Maybe I’ll wind up in some young whippersnapper’s story.
Talk about poetic justice!
Mundie Moms (http://mundiemoms.blogspot.
Here are the other stops on Wendelin's tour...
Wendelin Van Draanen
Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash Blog Tour
May 31st: Where the Books Are
June 1st: Steph Su Reads
June 2nd: Through A Glass, Darkly
June 3rd: Mrs. Magoo Reads
June 4th: The Children’s Book Review
June 5th: Write for a Reader
June 6th: Mundie Moms
June 7th: Library Lounge Lizard
June 8th: Wendelin’s Jog Blog (this is Wendelin’s site, where she will be posting a final entry here)