Marita Mercer is my favorite character. (Shh… Don’t tell the others!) While I love all of my characters (mostly) equally, Marita came first; her existence was the impetus for everyone else in my adult fiction universe. Bets? The perfect sidekick. Marita’s parents? The impetus for her hard-headed teen rebellion. Jim? The antagonist we love to hate. Angel? The anti-Marita. Charli? All the potential of the next generation, parented differently, but every bit as hard-headed. And Lukas? The love interest who could give Marita - and Charli - a new perspective.
Marita actually grew out of a character in a different book: Keesha's mother, Chantal, in Jersey Girls Don't Rule. After I finished writing Keesha's story, I wondered what it might be like to write the story from Chantal's perspective. But, since I'd already told Keesha's story, I decided to use Chantal as the starting point for creating another story. Chantal + a list of what-if questions led me to Marita.
I’ve often said that I like to write characters who, if they were actual humans would be people that I’d like to sit down with and have a conversation. And Marita fits that bill. As a former school counselor and longtime educator, I have a thing for the underdog. And, as someone who has spent all of her adult life studying psychology in one form another, I’m profoundly aware that people are complicated, and that what we see on the outside is only a glimpse of what people carry on the inside. Yes, Marita was a rebellious teen who made a choice that changed her life, but there is much more to her than that. Writing Angel as a sympathetic character was easy; sharing the sympathy I have for Marita so my readers like her as much as I do was more challenging.
Luckily, part of writing fiction is having conversations with my characters. Sometimes I take the lead and other times, they run the show. While only a few minutes with Rosemarie would be more than enough, I'd be content to spend some time at Starbucks with everyone else.
Even Jim? Oh, yes. Freud and I would have a field day with Jim.
M is for Marita Mercer, mother to Charli and, in a sense, all the characters I've written ever since.
No matter how different they may be.