Q&A with Revenge of the Radioactive Lady Author Elizabeth Stuckey-French

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Creating Characters

The characters have such varied lives and interests -- tracking hurricane patterns, dealing with autism, working on secret experiments and more. Which was the most difficult to write?

I was afraid to write from the perspective of the kids who had Asperger's because I had never done that before, and I wasn't sure if I could or should. But my daughter reminded me that not everyone with Asperger's is the same, so each of my characters would just be one version. Once I gave myself permission to try their points of view, it was very liberating. I really tried to find something in each of the characters to connect with, and each was fun to write for different reasons. Of course, originally I was writing the novel only from the father's point of view.

So you started with one character's point of view and ended up writing from the perspective of every character -- and there are seven in all! Was that difficult?

It was daunting to write that way, but I realized that it wasn't one person's story; the story was in the way they affected one another. It wasn't just a story about Marylou; it was also about how she came to the family at the exactly the time they needed her. They were self-involved and didn't notice what was going on around them, and they needed someone like Marylou to shake them up.

Several of the characters have something of a hidden identity.

I wanted the story to be at an explosive moment for the family, and I wanted them to have secrets that were fairly serious to make for some drama. Plus, I've always loved mysteries -- Nancy Drew books were my favorites growing up -- and I loved the idea of someone taking on another identity, the way Marylou does when she moves to Tallahassee and assumes the name Nancy Armstrong. I also worked as a social worker for years and did a lot of family counseling. I was always amazed by the things family members kept from each other and weren't noticing or communicating. But I like writing about it much better than being a counselor -- I found it frustrating that I could help certain people and not others. I much prefer exploring these things at a distance, as a writer and a reader.

Continued on page 3:  Stuckey-French's Influences

 

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