Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Guest Blogger - Joanna Campbell Slan

The Mayhem (and Magic) of Being an Author

By Joanna Campbell Slan

“Detweiler would never say that!” My husband insisted after reading an early version of a scene from Cut, Crop & Die, the second book in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series.
I nearly fell off my chair laughing. After all, I created Detective Chad Detweiler. Wouldn’t I know what my character would or would not say?
Apparently not.
(Confession: I changed the dialogue. My husband pronounced it, “Much better!”)
You see, being an author is a lot like parenting. You only think you’re the person in charge. We writers create characters who have lives of their own. Characters who make demands on us. Who keep us up at night. Who don’t do what we tell them to do.
Sigh. Sad but true.
In fact, our characters do just about everything but borrow the car keys.
Just last week, my protagonist Kiki Lowenstein surprised me. She decided to have a romantic interlude (ahem!) with someone. (I’d have to kill you if I told you who it was.)
Here I sat, typing merrily away, and WHOA-DOGGIES! An unexpected sentence appeared on the computer screen. Kiki had decided to end her four-year vow of chastity.
I checked my outline. I re-read my synopsis. Neither included Kiki’s encounter.
“Where’d that come from?” I wondered.
I’m not sure whether I should let Kiki do this or not.
Kiki insisted this was none of my business. She’s been lonely for what? Three, almost four books? That’s a long time when you’re a fictional character.
But wasn’t I supposed to be in charge? I mean, wasn’t it up to me to authorize and approve all the details of Kiki’s life?
Um, I guess NOT.
Who’s actually in charge here?
Welcome to the confusing world of being an author.
Truthfully, Kiki Lowenstein is often more real to me than most of the people in my Rolodex. I understand her better. I relate to her. I know what’s ahead for her. (Until recently, at least!)
When authors get together, we talk about our characters as if they are honest-to-gosh people. We say, “So-and-so would never do that!” or “She’s going through a difficult time.” An eavesdropper might conclude we’re gossiping.
And we are. The problem is we’re talking earnestly about non-existent people. We’re discussing our imaginary playmates.
We’re clearly off our rockers.
But trust me, it’s all good. Especially for our readers. See, if we don’t believe our characters exist, if we don’t think of them as living and breathing souls…you won’t either!


Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of the Agatha-nominated Paper, Scissors, Death, featuring single mom and scrapbooker-turned-sleuth, Kiki Lowenstein. The second book in the series—Cut, Crop & Die—was released June 2009. Photo, Snap, Shot is now available for pre-ordering at Go to

You can read an excerpt from Photo, Snap, Shot at


  1. Luckily, we know how to find out, Joanna! Can't wait for the book. Of course, I now think of it as Photo, Snap and Snuggle.

  2. Oh, Mary Jane, that's good. I'll have to share it with my editor.

  3. Great blog Joanna I can't wait to read Photo Snap Shot.


  4. Oh, Joanna, that's too funny. I can see you talking with Kiki or Detweiler. I think it's one of the reasons I enjoy your books so much.


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