Over to you, Carla:~
Mitzi Steiner is a former jazz singer, an eighty-something-year old who has kept her style and her looks, although the wrinkles have softened her. She still has her hair colored and styled and dresses in comfortable pants suits or her volunteer smock if she’s on duty at the county hospital. She wears reading glasses with rhinestones at the corners and still has a zip in her step. She’s not ready to embrace her sunset years just yet even though her husband and singing partner now has Alzheimer’s and resides in a care unit.
Gabe Steiner was once a tall, vigorous man with thick black hair, laughing dark eyes, and a wide smile. He’s growing more frail each day, his hair now silver, his eyes vacant.
Brooke Woodson is a little taller than average, slim, and has long dark hair and brown eyes. She’s attractive but in a subdued manner. She’s comfortable in well-cut suits and heels for her job as a paralegal, but she likes to relax in sweats when she’s not working.
Gabe – Ed Ames, both the young and older versions.
For Brooke, Sandra Bullock. Pretty face, long dark hair. More the casual, everyday Sandra Bullock, not the glamorous superstar.
Strengths and weaknesses
Mitzi’s strengths: Compassion, zest for life, and generosity with both her time and resources. She’s a talented jazz singer and entertainer. Her life of faith has carried her through many storms in life.
Her weaknesses: She’d rather not think about the reality of Gabe’s diagnosis and is in denial that she, too, has limitations brought on by age, such as her decreasing vision and slower reactions. She can be stubborn and outspoken, with occasional moments of melancholy.
Brooke’s strengths: She’s very smart and has a great work ethic, trying to be compliant and please others. Although she’s in close contact with her mom and sister, they don’t always communicate well. She’s artistic and loves her cat, Cosmo.
Her weaknesses: Denial about the reality of her abusive fiancé. Believes falsely that she can fix the relationship if she’s a better person. Has always done what others expected of her which comes from an inner feeling of unworthiness.
Gabe: He was brave, funny, honest, and talented, his body now ravaged by the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Quirk (if any)
Mitzi is a wicked gin rummy player and hums along to the old recordings she and Gabe made.
Brooke has always been accident prone and bumps into things throwing her off balance. She learns to skip rocks with her dad late in the story which is sort of metaphorical for her lost childhood and becoming less stringent about life.
Your inspiration for the character
Mitzi was first a character in a short story I wrote several years ago. She was the oldest of three children orphaned when her mother perished in a dust storm, but was not the focal character. Every once in a while I would think about her and think that she had a story to tell. I also had an image of an aging jazz singer who had a story. I was quite surprised that they were the same character and that the child morphed into Mitzi, the singer.
Brooke was invented as the person for Mitzi to relay her story to. There was no defining moment for Brooke and she was harder to get to know—perhaps because she was more reserved. The more I learned about her, the more I liked her and was happy that she grew stronger and was someone I would like to have for a friend.
Funny about Gabe. I was watching a program on PBS with singing stars from the fifties and sixties and knew at once when I heard Ed Ames singing that he was Gabe. I recorded the show and watched it a dozen times, taking copious notes on his facial expressions and mannerisms.
Background to the story
I mentioned wanting Mitzi to be able to tell her story of being orphaned and how she became a jazz singer. It wasn’t until I read an article in the Tulsa newspaper about the possible renovation of the Big Ten Ballroom (once a jazz hall that hosted many famous musicians in the forties and fifties) that I realized my story would be set in Tulsa. I love the jazz backdrop and rich heritage of the city where I live. The Swan Lake district in Broken Wings is a real neighborhood and has resident swans so that was a natural choice to connect the livelong mating of swans with a lifelong marriage. Friendship was a strong theme that emerged as the story was being written—one of the fun things that comes from being a seat of the pants writer
Thanks, Rel, for letting me share my characters with your readers!
Always, always a pleasure, Carla ~ thank you