Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guest Blogger - Blaize Clement

From Blaize Clement, author of the Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series:

I frequently get mail from readers asking why I chose to make Dixie Hemingway a pet sitter, a widow, or a woman who lost a child. Every time I get those questions, I try to go back and remember what was going through my head when I wrote the first book in the series. Some answers come immediately, but others will probably always elude me.

Choosing Dixie's name took several weeks. I wanted a name that embodied a southern woman, but I also wanted to convey the idea that the series was more than a light-hearted romp through kitty land. I take writing seriously, and I wanted readers to know that. So after a lot of rejected names, I came up with Dixie Hemingway. Dixie for the south and for down-to-earth humor, and Hemingway for a literary touch. Hemingway seemed especially fitting because Papa lived in Florida and had six-toed cats, but mostly I liked the music of the two names together.

I made her a pet sitter because I wanted a protagonist who was on the move and had legitimate access to a lot of people's houses. Since inclusiveness as a philosophy is important to me, and since I see pets as examples of unconditional love, making Dixie a pet sitter was a logical move.

Those are the questions I can easily answer. But when it comes to the details of Dixie's life, I don't have any idea where they came from. Once she had a name, Dixie stepped into my mind fully realized. She let me know she had been a deputy sheriff and an excellent shot. She let me know her deputy husband and her little girl had been killed in a freak accident. She let me know that grief had driven her mad for a year. All the other details came from Dixie, too. The fact that her brother is a firefighter who looks like a Viking god, and that his life partner is an undercover officer with an uncanny ability to disguise himself when he's investigating criminals. Dixie told me all that, I didn't make it up. She also told me that her mother had been an alcoholic who abandoned her children, so Dixie and her brother were raised by their grandparents in a sturdy house at the edge of the sea on Siesta Key.

In my files, I have letters written to me from all the major characters in the mystery series. I do the typing, but they dictate the details. That's how I learned what the hunky homicide detective's full name is, and why her brother's partner is called Paco. I didn't know those things myself until the third book. And with each book, the characters reveal new things about themselves which I dutifully report. Sometimes I'm shocked by what they tell me, sometimes I sort of suspected it all along.

If the day ever comes when I'm straining to create characters, or when I stop being curious about them myself, I'll know it's time to stop writing the series. Until then, I continue to type and they continue to tell me about themselves. Sometimes they make me cry, sometimes I laugh my head off, sometimes I say, "Listen, I can't use that kind of language in a book!" They are patient with me. If I try to move on without their guidance, they just sit down and watch me run into a wall. Then I backtrack, ask them humbly for help, and they point me in the right direction. And they're not the least bit arrogant about it. They don't even ask for their names to be on the book jackets. Well, Dixie does, but she's the star so she deserves her name to be above mine.

Author of The Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series (St. Martin's Minotaur)
"Kitty Litter" blog:


  1. Thanks Blaize!

    Let them keep coming for a long time!


  2. Blaize,
    Thank you for blogging for us today and it certainly made my Christmas to know another author listens to what their character tells them. I love the fact that your characters have so much depth and that writing is a partnership between you and the character.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I have characters who tell me their biographies as well and now I know it is not a sign of encroaching senility LOL! It is also nice to see series charcters develop over time so that the series stays fresh. Merry Christmas!


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