You will find it hard to believe that Chasing Lilacs is Carla Stewart’s first novel. A beautiful story of a young girl coming to terms with all the pain and joy that life throws her way. With vibrant characters and a moving storyline, Chasing Lilacs is a must read. Enjoy this insight into the characters that make this story sing.
Over to you, Carla:~
Sammie Tucker is tall for her age (12), thin, athletic, with long dark hair she often pulls into a pony tail. Brown eyes. She’s attractive, but considers herself plain and has the usual angst about zits, her budding figure, choosing the right clothes.
Tuwana Johnson, Sammie’s best friend, is petite, a blue-eyed blonde, and way too perky – a clichéd character which I did intentionally to contrast the more serious Sammie whose character arc grows throughout the story – Tuwana’s not so much.
Cly MacLemore, the mysterious kid from California who comes for a summer visit and ends up staying. Average height, muscular, dark ducktail hair in the beginning. Gets a flat-top haircut later when trying to fit in with his new friends in Texas.
Rita, Sammie’s mother, is frail, has red hair and freckles, blue eyes. I wanted to contrast mother and daughter, build a bit of intrigue into their relationship which is the driving force of the plot.
How fun! Since my book is nostalgic, I pulled characters from the fifties and sixties era except for Rita. These are very much the way I pictured these characters while writing Chasing Lilacs and had fun putting this together. Take a step back in time . . .
Sammie: Natalie Wood (West Side Story)
Cly: The Fonz (Henry Winkler)
Rita: Red-haired Nicole Kidman (think Moulin Rouge) – beautiful yet tragic
Strengths and weaknesses
Sammie has a quiet confidence, is comfortable in her own skin, and knows what she wants. However, she has a heightened sense of responsibility and blames herself for her mother’s actions. Later she has problems with knowing who to trust and can be a bit sarcastic. While she has a strong faith, she questions how God could let bad things happen.
Tuwana is the silly blonde that so many of us have known. She gets angry in a flash and over it just as quick. She is vain and self-centered, doesn’t mind giving her opinions, but she is steadfast as a friend as well.
Cly comes on the scene with his own bruised past, but adapts to his new environment and thrives in it. He has a compassion for Sammie that comes from his own experiences and although it looks as if he might be a first love, he turns out to be the trusted friend Sammie needs. Cly can be a bit of a hot head and has trust issues, but is willing to change.
Rita suffers from unresolved depression and eventually takes her own life. When not in the throes of depression, she’s a good wife and mom and desires the best for Sammie. With proper diagnosis and treatment, she would have been a joy to her family, but then there wouldn’t have been a story J
Quirk (if any)
Sammie’s quirk is like that of many people in my family—she counts things and does calculations in her head – the number of parakeet boxes in her neighbor’s aviary, the number of shelves in the neighborhood store, how many pages are in a book (she keeps a running tab of how many pages she’s read and how many are left). I’ve done things like this all my life, but didn’t really tell anyone. Come to find out, my dad, my aunt, one of my sons – we all share the same quirk!
The other character who has a fun quirk is Cly. When he first comes to visit, he is seen smoking a cigarette, but he has to follow his uncle’s “rules” if he wants to get along. So he sucks on cherry lifesavers. I use those as a metaphor for handling tense or difficult situations.
Your inspiration for the character
When I first got the idea for the story, I knew Sammie’s name and the basic problem she would have to solve – her response to her mother’s mental problems. I wanted her to be likable and be able to relate well to others, but I didn’t give her too much description and truthfully, I never mention her hair color in the story. I hoped that readers would personalize her for themselves. I’m not sure that’s a great idea – perhaps just a blooper by a novice writer. I probably spent more time in crafting the other characters to make sure they contrasted with or complemented Sammie.
Background to the story
As a child of the 50s and 60s myself, I have always been curious about those forbidden subjects people whispered about but were too polite to discuss, especially “nerve” problems and shock treatments. What would it have been like if a young girl’s mom had these problems? At the same time, I wanted to write a story set in a tight knit petroleum camp like the one in Texas where I grew up. In 2004, I took a solo venture to the camp (which is now a ghost town). A few miles away, I saw the smokestacks on the horizon. My breaths quickened. A lump appeared in my throat. As I approached and later rambled over the vacant ground where my childhood home once stood, wonderful memories washed over me. I knew I’d found not only the setting for my story, but also the theme of the book—the power of community that shapes our lives.
Carla ~ thank you so much for the brilliant effort you have put into this spotlight, especially the pictures. Great stuff!!
On Monday, the spotlight shines on Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada House of Hope characters.
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