5 Ways I'm Nothing Like My Main Character

Authors often get asked whether their stories are based on their real-life experiences. After spending over a year writing Reluctant Cassandra from the perspective of my main character, Arden McCrae, I can say that we definitely live very different lives. For me, taking an imaginary walk in Arden's shoes was sometimes surreal, sometimes heartbreaking, and always offered a different way of seeing things.

For your reading pleasure, I give you...five ways I'm nothing like my main character.

Let's start with the one you've probably already guessed:

1. I actually can't see the future

...and I wouldn't want to, either. Arden's ability to have visions of the future causes her a lot of anxiety throughout the story. Who can blame her? When she senses that she's about to have a premonition, she's consumed by wondering what she might see and how things might change.

There’s nothing I can do to make a premonition break before it’s good and ready. Nothing I can do to change the future once I see it, either. I know that from experience, too. So I do what I’ve learned to do best. I settle in and wait.
— Reluctant Cassandra

2. I can't see the past, either

Now here's an ability that could be a lot of fun! I'm a big history buff. When I'm reading about something that happened long ago, I usually find myself wondering what life was really like during that time. I also love antiquing and finding one-of-a-kind pieces. Wouldn't it be great to know who owned each of my antique finds and how they were really used?

Arden is able to sense the truth about an object's past just by holding it. As a savvy antique store owner, she uses this ability to tell her customers a little about each piece she sells.

Lucky for me, I always know the story behind a piece. Unlike visions of the future, which hover and hesitate and shift at random, visions of the past are clear. If I brush my fingers over a piece, I’ll get a hint of the stories it holds, the same way I could get a whiff of old varnish or a glimpse of a worn patina.
— Reluctant Cassandra

3. I'm not so great at refinishing furniture

That's not to say I haven't tried. Every so often I'll see a chair or a little table that looks like it just needs a coat of paint and a little TLC. Correction: what it needs is someone who knows what they're doing to give it a coat of paint and a little TLC. After several failed attempts, I am confident in saying that I am not that someone.

Arden, on the other hand, has an entire basement stocked with antiques that need to be refinished. She also saves broken items she can make into something new.

I hate throwing out broken things. If all I have to do is replace a finding or mend a fastener, I can save a whole piece.
— Reluctant Cassandra

4. Remodeling a house is also not on my to-do list

I love watching shows on HGTV that turn run-down fixer-uppers into gorgeous restored homes. I've even been known to imagine tearing down a wall or installing new floors in my house. Fortunately for the other members of my household, I don't go any further than imagining drastic home makeovers. I'll do simple household repairs and even paint the walls (under duress), but believe me, everything else is best left to the professionals.

With her spot-on ability to sense a troubled past and her talent for making old things new again, it's only fitting that Arden remodeled her one-hundred-year-old house entirely on her own. By the end of the book, it's still a work in progress (as most houses are), but I feel like she's up to the task.

Now that most of the big things are done, it’s starting to feel more like a home and less like a never-ending project. On the inside, that is. The outside is about as awful as the day I bought it. Maybe even worse.
— Reluctant Cassandra

5. Believe it or not, I don't know anyone personally who has Alzheimer's

Which is exactly the reason why I was able to write about it. Many, many people, myself included, have lived through the reality of having a loved one diagnosed with a progressive illness. However, Arden's experience with her father's Alzheimer's diagnosis is entirely her own. She has a particularly hard time admitting the reality of the condition - even to herself.

We don’t come out and say “Alzheimer’s” in our family. That’s not how McCraes handle things. We say he’s “absent-minded” or “feeling his age” or “having a hard time.”
— Reluctant Cassandra

Writing this novel was similar to taking a very long walk in someone else's shoes. At the end of the trip, I was glad to take them off - after all, I definitely wouldn't want to have premonitions like Arden. It also left me with a deeper understanding of others who are on Arden's journey and have loved ones with Alzheimer's. After writing Ghosts of Eagle Valley, a companion short story collection to Reluctant Cassandra, I published it on Channillo for Charity so that all proceeds from Ghosts of Eagle Valley would be donated to the Alzheimer's Association. If you'd like to join me in supporting research and support and care programs for those living with Alzheimer's, I hope you'll consider checking it out!

Now it's your turn. Although I like writing about characters with different experiences than my own, I'm willing to bet that other authors have different approaches. Are you a writer? How are you different from your main character? Leave a comment and let me know!