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  • Sue Hawley

But Who Are They Really? Part 2

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.


When Bob and Elaine first appeared I had no idea who they were or what exactly had happened to them. You meet the characters the same way I do, which is to say as I get to know them as I write.

Bob took a little time to form an image in my mind but once that picture was established, I was off to the races. He is so much fun to write! I love his innocence and eagerness to please. Let’s face it, Elaine is no picnic and I’ve always felt sorry for him that he not only had to survive her while living, but also in death.

Bob is no dummy but he’s out of his league when it comes to dealing with Elaine. She’s a bitch, plain and simple. Bob is the sweetest guy in the world but also a big, overgrown puppy. He is constantly disheveled and reminds me of Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoon. No matter how put together Bob starts out within minutes he will be a hot mess. I love when he tries so hard to appear to have his act together only to fade quietly back to his real self within short order; crazy hair, wrinkled clothes and goofy smile.

I personally do not know one person as odd as Bob, thank goodness—it would drive me nuts. Bob became himself with no help from me. The more I got to know him the goofier he became and I went with it. He is also the most loyal friend a person could ever wish to know. I’m a bit jealous of Peg—not everyone has the opportunity to have a friend like Bob.


What’s not to hate about this woman? We’ve all met at least one person in our lives that is snotty, self-centered and cruel to those around them- think of all those girls in high school that seemed to have popularity based only on their ability for snobbery. You were either part of the ‘in’ group or you weren’t (I wasn’t), and their attitude was atrocious to those ‘lesser’ than they perceived themselves. That’s Elaine in spades. She was easy as pie to write since she is based on every snotty woman I’ve ever met. It still amazes me how many women seem to believe they have a god given right to be a bitch; gives the rest of us a bad name.

After a few books I began to wonder if Elaine had ever been nice and decided to investigate. Maybe her childhood had an emotional tragedy that would allow me to have some pity on her. Maybe she had a deep dark secret she had to work at keeping hidden and her attitude was a front to protect herself. Maybe, maybe not. (SPOILER ALERT: Elaine’s a bitch and always has been.) But I took the time to be fair to her, even though I knew damn good and well she would never have given anyone around her the same curtesy. She did have a secret but it wasn’t the cause of her lousy personality.

It should have come as no shock when she hitched her wagon to another self-centered woman in the afterlife.


Nell is Elaine cubed. A horrible mother, daughter, wife, and human. She was not quite ‘evil’ while living, but has made up for her short comings on earth by becoming quite villainous in Deadsville. She made sure to hook up with all the ‘right’ people once she crossed over to the spiritual realm by searching out the most disgusting, vile, and corrupt individuals she could find. Apparently, there are plenty in that category available in the afterlife and she easily found them. There must be something to the Law of Attraction after all.

I don’t think Elaine would have associated with Nell on her own volition since Nell wouldn’t have been in Elaine’s social circle. Rather, I think Nell groomed Elaine as she recognized their common ground and mean spiritedness. Nell is all about disrupting decency whenever she can and she seems quite good at it. Elaine is probably an end to Nell’s means, but we’ll see how that unfolds. Miracles do happen but I doubt Elaine will ever change. I know for a fact Nell won’t.

I did name Nell after a great-aunt of mine but other than a bit of self-centeredness, the comparison ends there (ok, so she cheated at Scrabble). My aunt had a sense of humor and could keep us kids busy during long road trips (she had been a school teacher for about a minute), she wasn’t the Nell in the books. My Nell made the most deliciously horrible peanut butter divinity on the planet (she worked in a candy shop for another hot minute) and worked crossword puzzles with her dentures out while she chomped on Doublemint gum with no teeth. When I was 11 she allowed me to ‘blue’ her hair for her. It turned out purple and while my mother was furious, Aunt Nell loved it and wore it proudly. I was fascinated with her until her death when I was in high school. I thought she was ancient at the ripe old age of 88 but then I was only 17 and anyone over 60 seemed ancient. She was a hoot.

Bob had the misfortune during life of being married to a snake of a wife. She took advantage of his loyal puppy dog personality and used it to domineer him during their time on Earth. In the afterlife he has the chance to make a break from this abusive and destructive relationship and find his own path- which he does with enthusiasm! Elaine also has choices to make and her time in Deadsville is spent much the same as her living years- finding ways to make other people's lives miserable. She sees the same power hungry and borderline evil in Nell and seems happy to be her lackey for now. Not everyone who lived a hateful life continues in that way on the other side of the veil but it does seem to be difficult to shed past anger, pain, or downright cruel behavior. Maybe we'll see some of these people redeem themselves and fight on the side of the angels… and maybe not!

#characters #writing

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