The Women of 1929: Working with Elizabeth

The Women of 1929: Working With Elizabeth by M.L. Gardner

Where on earth do I begin. Elizabeth was born in a little dive bar near the beach in Washington State. Lisa and I went for a day trip and our only objective was to nail down birthdays and anniversaries for the characters. We weren't plotting and scheming, we were just eating cheeseburgers, drinking Jameson and Elizabeth appeared, standing next to the table in her hospital gown with matted brown hair, staring down at us. 

We came up with a wild and crazy way to insert her into the series. We wrote Elizabeth's Heart and started tying all the loose ends of two different genres together within one series. Then we thought twice. While we loved it, we wondered how readers would react to being taken from the normal world of Rockport and thrown into the Massachusetts Asylum for Feeble Minds and Lunatics. 

Erring on the side of caution, we tried pulling Elizabeth's Heart out of the series and going in a different direction without her. It didn't work. We realized we were stuck with her when we did a free promotion of 1929 and 20k copies went out with a preview of Elizabeth's Heart at the end. The thing is, I KNOW I swapped out that preview with one for 1930. (Insert Twilight Zone music here.) I started getting emails about it and so we put it back on the market and decided to make the most of a crazy situation. We've accepted the fact that she's here and won't leave. It's creepy if we think about it for too long. 

Even though Elizabeth throws some people for a loop in Book Two, I am glad she insisted on staying. It adds that unseen dimension to our ordinary, earthly characters. 

Originally she was just a crazy young woman that we threw in to complicate things. Because that's what crazy people do. She was the wild card we could blame any number of crises on. In our original outline, she was going to leave the asylum and find Aryl herself, washed up on the beach. We figured she'd keep him like a pet, reconstruct his memory to her liking and then marry him right before he regained his memory. That would complicate things ten ways from Sunday. Which is, of course, what we wanted. It didn't turn out quite like that. While Elizabeth did have possession of Aryl for a time, it was clear that Aryl was going to go on an adventure of a different kind. And Simon had everything to do with that.

Working with Elizabeth alive and mentally unstable was a walk in the park. We could layer in personalities and traits and fill in backstory to fit whatever weird way she was acting at the moment. What's harder is getting to know Elizabeth in her purest form now that she is on the other side of the veil. I've started working with her and Simon where their story picks up on the other side and it is very hard. She was so buried beneath trauma and a fractured personality that it's difficult to see what the real her is all about. She is essentially an established character with a blank slate for characterization. Fun but challenging. 

I am a believer in guardian angels and often wonder about that thin veil that separates us from the other side. I believe there are things going on all around us that we either can't see or are too busy and distracted to notice. Like Detective Sloan, I believe the dead do talk to those who have an ear to listen. 

The dead are telling me that they are almost ready to have the rest of their story told in the eventual title, Simon's Watch. If you look closely at everything that has happened since Aryl got lost in Boston and boarded that boat right up to the latest episode of Purling Road, you can see them there, looking after the characters. 

Simon's Watch is on my 2016 list of things to do. I have a feeling only when I dive in and begin working with them will I see Elizabeth's true personality bloom. It will be like getting to know her all over again.