Sunday, February 20, 2011

Deborah and Sigrid

For many years now, people have commented on the differences between Lt. Sigrid Harald and Judge Deborah Knott. “It’s as if they were created by two completely different writers,” is the usual comment.

Now that I’m making the first series available again on ebooks, readers have been leaving comments on my FaceBook pages about those differences. Some prefer the cooler New York art setting to the warmer (in all senses) North Carolina settings, while others say they’ve never been able to warm up to Sigrid.

My usual explanation—the short answer— is that hot-headed and impulsive Deborah was created to be the antithesis of cool and prickly Sigrid. Metaphorically speaking, Sigrid is a

butterfly forced to fly before its wings were fully inflated. If you’ve ever watched a swallowtail emerge from its chrysalis, it looks like a loosely-furled wet umbrella.Those limp wings are shorter than its body. It pulls up onto a twig, rests a few minutes, then slowly begins to pump up its wings until they are dry and fully expanded. Only then does it try to fly. If it is menaced before this process is complete, it may be able to fly, but it will never soar.I tried to write Sigrid from that cramped perspective. The ugly duckling child of a beautiful Southern mother and a charismatic father who died when she was almost too young to remember him, she has to overcome her feelings of inadequacy. It was like writing in clothes that were tight, seated on a chair that was too small, with only a glass of water at hand.

Writing Deborah on the other hand felt as if all the governors were off after two shots of bourbon. I’m happy that she’s been so well-received, but I’m even happier that Sigrid may finally reach an audience that will like her, too.

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