Hey hey, romance junkies.
It’s time for another edition of What A Character Chat. Today’s victim comes to us courtesy of the lovely Barbara Barrett. She’s loaned Dina Maitland, the heroine of her new release, DRIVEN TO MATRIMONY from The Wild Rose Press, now available at Amazon.
Hiya Dina. In Twitter fashion, will you tell us about your story in 140 characters or less?
Dina: Already iffy career jeopardized to halt movie star mother’s engagement to film student thirty years younger only to fall for his dad.
Mac: Oh boy. What a mess! What do you consider your biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
Dina: I’m pretty darn good at my job as a forensic accountant in Des Moines, Iowa. I use my understanding of numbers to track the money trail in divorces, corporate mergers and criminal proceedings, like a detective would investigate clues in a murder case. Nothing is more exciting than unearthing a hidden account or monetary transaction. Those discoveries don’t happen every day. In between, there are days of eyeballing pages and pages of numbers, dates, and codes to find anomalies. That kind of work takes patience, persistence, and an ability to work alone long hours. I thrive on all of it, which has contributed to my success. I much prefer all of this to my movie star mother’s crazy lifestyle.
My greatest weakness? Worrying about my mother. She’s a bit of a flake. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But she has this tendency to get into one predicament after another, partially because she’s been a little off-center since my dad divorced her and more recently because she’s trying to grab headlines to save her fading career as a leading lady. She and my dad divorced amicably, but it’s pretty much been up to me to watch over her since she’s been on her own. I probably spend too much time cleaning up her messes to the detriment of my own job. One time, I was so preoccupied with my mother’s problem, I neglected to follow up on an important detail for a client and nearly cost him thousands. What can I say? I’m her only child, thus her only hope for extricating her from her own unfortunate decisions. I know I’m not her parent or keeper and that I have to stop putting my life on hold whenever trouble looms in her life, but when she told me she’d gotten engaged to a twenty-year-old film student she barely knew, I couldn’t let this one pass. Someone had to stop her.
Mac: Well, geez. Sounds like you have your hands full. The romance genre is often heavy with heartbreaking conflict but what makes you laugh?
Dina: Very little. I tend to take myself too seriously. Probably a reaction to my mother, who seems to float through life enjoying every moment, never questioning people’s ulterior motives. I’ve had to protect her. Then I met Ben, father of my mother’s fiancé. When my mother and her fiancé mysteriously disappeared from her summer home in South Carolina for a few days, they left Ben and me to fend for ourselves. I found myself relaxing and enjoying myself for the first time in months. We went deep sea fishing, but the poor guy forgot to take his seasick meds before going and wound up losing his breakfast overboard. Although I wasn’t too impressed at the time, because his little accident caused me to lose my first big catch, reflecting on it afterwards, it really was quite funny. Just like a couple days later, when the two of us posed in the fountain behind my mother’s home for a reporter who showed up unexpectedly. She wanted the shots to “sparkle,” so Ben started a water fight. Best time…ever, except the more intimate times with him that followed. What makes me laugh? When I let down my guard and just enjoy life.
Mac: Sounds like Ben might have something to do with teaching you how to do that. What was the toughest aspect of your story for you and Barbara to work through?
Dina: Getting me to realize my mother was a grown woman who could take care of herself, despite some of the crazy things that happened to her on occasion. Had I grown up in the midst of the Hollywood scene, her life might not have overwhelmed me, I would have assumed it was the norm. But my mother didn’t get into films until I was a young teen. By then, the world was supposed to revolve around me. Right? But it didn’t. I saw less and less of her as her popularity and fortune grew. Not all the people around her were her friends. They were sycophants. Guess I took my jealousy of her career, my need for attention, and my dislike of her lifestyle and molded those into my caretaker mode, especially after my dad divorced her. My author, working through Ben, forced me to realize I was using my seeming need to clean up my mother’s messes to avoid dealing with the messes in my own life.
Mac: Nice. Okay, how about giving us a short excerpt from your favorite scene in the story? And tell us why it’s your favorite.
Dina: This scene occurs early in my story. I chose it because it ties in so well with the title my author chose for the book.
The rushed nature of the engagement announcement finds both me and Ben competing for the last rental car available, a tiny convertible, when we arrive in South Carolina from our respective homes. Though I get there first, unfortunately I discover my memory of driving a straight shift is somewhat shaky. (I was sick that week in driver training. I had to learn on a simulator.) Somehow, when I put the car into reverse, I give it a little too much gas and land in a small mud puddle. Okay, a bog. Ben convinces me to let him share the car, since we’re going the same direction. (He is unaware my mother is his son’s new fiancée, and even though I figure out our connection, I don’t tell Ben at this point in the story. Hey, I don’t know him from Adam. He could be in on some kind of swindle with his son.) The rental agent provides some rough directions to get to our destination and we set off. We haven’t gone far before Ben brakes abruptly to avoid hitting a rabbit. A bunny, can you imagine? The sudden stop causes me to spill the bottle of water I’ve been drinking over Ben’s pants as well as the directions. I attempt to keep him from finding out we’re lost as long as I can, figuring all I have to do is keep us heading to the right, toward the coast. But eventually, we come to a three-way intersection and I have no idea which way to go.
They were approaching another crossroad. Ben eased up the vehicle at the stop sign and lifted his brow expectantly.
She studied her nails.
“Which one do we take?”
She kept her head down. No response.
“Dina? Which way?”
At length, she raised her head, a sheepish smile tugging the corners of her mouth. “Beats me. The directions were destroyed with the spill. I’ve been guessing ’til now. I have no idea where we are.”
Barbara: I’ll answer this one. I loved this scene because it continues to make Dina appear to be a ditz, just like her mother, which makes her crazy, because she sees herself as being so competent, so on top of things. Little by little, circumstances beyond her control are forcing her to open a few buttons on her buttoned-down life. I had a great time setting up scenes between Dina and Ben where they had to briefly set aside the reason they were both there at Dina’s mother’s summer house, to break up the engagement, and deal with Life’s little problems, like seasickness, a bug bite, and a pesky reporter.
Mac: Nice, Barbara, and smart. It’s the little moments between the characters that make the heart of a romance beat, after all. Now, before we finish, do you have a question for visitors, and where can we find you and DRIVEN TO MATRIMONY?
Dina: Under what circumstances do you enjoy reading physical comedy and what turns you off about it?
Driven to Matrimony
The Sleepover Clause
And He Cooks Too