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  • Sue Hawley

But Who Are They Really?

I've had many readers ask me who the characters in my books are based on. To be honest few have consciously been formed based on real people. Rather, they are usually a conglomerate of many folks throughout my life. I've started a Character Series on the blog for those who want to know more about their favorite characters in the Peg Shaw series.


Peg Shaw is probably me at her core. I like boring and predictable; Peg likes boring and predictable. While I don’t have four boys, I do have five kids whose personalities are completely different from one another. Makes life interesting, to say the least. Peg lives in an old farmhouse; I live in an old farmhouse. Peg and Andy heavily remodeled their home; we also spent years tearing our home apart and putting it back together.

Peg and Andy’s marriage is rock solid. My husband and I also have a stable relationship. I made the conscious decision from the get go Peg’s marriage would be loving and have mutual respect. I was tired of reading good stories whose main characters had dismal or confusing relationships. While a little tension between a couple can be fun, over a long haul I found myself disgusted with a female main character who couldn’t get her act together when it came to a relationship. I want to scream at her, “Just grow up already!”

Peg whines more than I do (hopefully), a fact my sister pointed out to me, so I have Peg admitting this to herself in book four. Whether she’ll change or not is anybody’s guess; Peg is pretty darn stubborn. Her main personality traits are me to a tee, right down to her morning need of caffeine. I’m not even sure what planet I’m on until well into my third cup of the required amount of said beverage. No one talks to me until they are absolutely sure I’ve started that third cup of coffee. Just ask my family.

Peg is short; I am not. Both of my grandmothers were 4’11” and I have fond memories of them. Both were extremely strong women with a strong sense of humor, though totally different personalities. One was prim and proper, the other a bit more bawdy. I loved them both. They each married men over a foot taller than they were which I still find amusing. Each was well into her nineties when their lives came to a close.

Peg is well over the age of 50 and so am I. I still believe the decade of my forties was my best: how I felt, no aches or pains, still reasonably slender, and enough life under my belt not to be a total idiot. Now, a foot firmly into my sixties, pieces and parts hurt, I irritate easier, slender is a memory and I still worry about my kids. Not sure that bit will ever go away.

Peg dyes her hair; I dye my hair. I broke down a few years ago and started having the stuff professionally administered to my head but only because I was too lazy to camouflage only the roots. My method tends to cause multi-colored hair as the longer bits grab hold of the color each time way better than those pesky gray suckers. I had it all chopped off and started fresh with someone who did have the patience to fiddle with only the roots. Peg would never actually pay someone to hide her gray stinkers; a box of hair dye from the grocery is still her salvation.

As you can see, in many ways if you know Peg you know me.


Being Peg’s husband can sometimes be rather difficult, but he loves her completely. He works easily around her quirks and tends to tease her. He has a healthy sense of humor and sees her not only as she is, but the best parts of herself. He ignores the down side of her personality, which is probably the secret of any good relationship. I wanted Andy to be her rock, not because she’s needy, but rather because they are a team. They lean on one another during the tough times but Peg wants to know if she reached for him he’d be there no matter what the circumstances.

Andy is fascinated with the afterlife and enjoys discovering the oddities in Deadsville. Since the afterlife I conjured is based on life on earth (right down to joining clubs) I decided it would be fun to watch Andy’s enchantment with that realm grow the more he learned. While Peg is irritated, Andy is delighted.

Bits and pieces of Andy are based on my dad. Dad had a great sense of humor and his eyes twinkled when he was teasing. The poor man couldn’t tell a joke to save his life because the closer he got to the punch line, the harder he laughed. I don’t think he ever successfully completed one joke because the tears would be streaming down his face and it would take forever for him to stop laughing. He was great. I see Andy much the same.

Strangely, I actually know someone a lot like Andy but didn’t meet him until I was well into the second book. Universal connections?

Peg and Andy make up the heart of the story. Although Peg is the main character I didn’t want to write her husband as simply a side note- someone the reader only sees her with when it's time for dinner. He is very important to her and so also to the story. They have a strong, loving, and stable relationship which is not something I see a lot of in novels. They don't do drama, they're thankfully past that, and so the stories are able to focus on other areas to build the drama and story intensity. Together they face the challenges of dealing with the dark shadows trying to take over their community.

#writing #novels #characters

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