You’re My Narrator??!!! By Libi Astaire

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Featured Book | 4 comments

The-Doppelgangers-Dance185x280aI still remember the day back in 2008 when I was asked to write a historical mystery series for Targum Press, a small publisher in Israel. Winning the lottery, discovering that I was the heir apparent to some glorious country house in England – those daydreams all instantly paled and faded away. What could be more fun than writing a mystery series? What could be more delicious than getting lost for hours in history books and historical blogs, and not feeling guilty about it for a minute since someone – i.e., my publisher – was paying me to do it?

Then it was time to set the feelings of euphoria aside and get to work. I had my plot: family loses fortune under mysterious circumstances and eldest daughter’s engagement has to be broken off. I had my setting: Regency England. I had my characters: members of London’s Jewish community. I even had a title: The Disappearing Dowry. But I was confronted with a technical question that every fiction writer has to face before they put a word on the page: Who would be my narrator?

The obvious thing to do was to have some nameless “voice” float through the story, describing the action and characters and divulging important details with that omniscient eye that all anonymous third-person narrators possess. Or I could go the “I” route and have my sleuth, Mr. Ezra Melamed, be both the captain of his ship and the author of his story. Then there was the solution offered by Dr. Watson, who played the role of faithful chronicler to master-sleuth Sherlock Holmes. All three solutions had worked successfully for other authors, but what would work for my series?

I don’t know what other authors do when they come up against a dilemma that has to be resolved. My method of choice is to verbalize the question before I go to sleep and then check my cerebral inbox in the morning. But the morning after I posed my question was a disaster. Some young lady had somehow gotten into my head and decided to wake me up much too early to babble some rambling nonsense in my ear.

I promptly did what I think any other night-owl author would do in this situation: I went back to sleep. When I again awoke, I was relieved that my babbler had disappeared but disappointed to find that I still didn’t have an answer to my narrator question. So I tried again that night – and again this young lady had the nerve to wake me up out of a sound sleep to babble on and on about I didn’t know what.

“Who are you and what do you want?” I remember grumbling, hoping that if I could get her to state her business, I could find a way to dismiss her.

“I’m Rebecca Lyon,” the babbler replied. “I’m Hannah Lyon’s younger sister.”

That got my attention. Hannah Lyon was the young lady whose engagement was going to be broken off due to the Lyon family’s change in fortune. But I had already given Hannah a few younger siblings, and none of them was named Rebecca. I certainly didn’t want to pad the story with unnecessary characters, so why was this interloper bothering me?

“I’m your narrator,” she said, and then she went into her shpiel a third time.

My narrator??!!! Now I was definitely awake, and I listened more closely to what she was saying. I realized that she was reciting a prologue to The Disappearing Dowry. But did I want a prologue? And did I want a narrator who was a young lady “not quite of the marriageable age”?

To be honest, I wasn’t convinced that Miss Lyon was up to doing the job. She seemed much too young to take on such an important responsibility. But because I liked her enthusiasm and her persistence, I decided to let her audition for the role. That day I sat down to write the opening pages of The Disappearing Dowry, and I quickly realized that her “voice” – earnest, exuberant— was just what I needed to give the series the humorous, light touch I was looking for.

Since then, my publisher has gone out of business and I’ve gone the self-publishing route, but Miss Lyon has remained at her post, faithfully chronicling the adventures of my sleuth, Ezra Melamed. In the latest book in the series, she narrates the mysterious circumstances that bring a young violinist and composer, Mr. David Salomon, close to insanity and financial ruin, adding her unique perspective to the events.

I’ve had great fun writing this series, but the longer I write the more I am amazed by an even greater mystery—the mystery of the human brain and the wonderful ability we humans have for inventing characters and writing stories.

While the scientists try to unravel that mystery, I’m happy to introduce you to The Doppelganger’s Dance and my Ezra Melamed Mystery Series. And I hope you’ll have as much fun getting to know the narrator, Miss Rebecca Lyon, as I did.

Libi Astaire, May 5, 2014

4 Comments

  1. Love this. Though I didn’t get a narrator out of the message, I did have a character who was dead push for more paragraph time. It was like, Me next, me next. Even when I was washing dishes. So I did I think it added to the horror of the crime and the sadness of his tale in war time.

  2. Hi Libi,

    This is a lovely exposé on the process of your working mind and the things research can bury in the depths of our subconscious. Yes, our minds are so very fascinating in the way they give us what we need, if we just let them and listen to what they tell us. It’s like having an onboard navigator for getting through our own lives, and to think we only use barely a fraction of the brain’s capacity as yet. So many lovely mysteries yet to be explored.

    Thanks for the inspiration, and Brightest Blessings,
    Tally 🙂

    • Thanks, Janet, for commenting, and, Tally, thanks so much for the blessings!

      • Hi Libi,

        On reading your account, I have just rushed to charge up my Kindle!

        I anticipate reading it tonight. As an aspiring historical writer (self published) I was fascinated by your analysis of your own thought/work processes.

        Although the title alone would not, I think, have captured my attention on a Kindle or Amazon list, your account did.

        I,m a fan of Jewish authors and characters (mostly American) and also books set in 18th and 19th Century. So you win on both counts.

        Congrats.

        Barry