About Mary Chase Comstock(from the author’s blog)

Portland, OR, United States
Mary Chase is the author of a new mystery/thriller–The Fool’s Journey– and several Regency romances. She is also an educational technology/literacy consultant with a Ph.D. in Literacy and Schooling from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her Scottish Terrier, Irish Wolfhound and Brazilian husband.

The Writers Life: Character Wrangling

 Characters are stubborn at best and out of control at their very worst. They don’t seem to care what direction I think I’m going; they take on a life of their own and just do what they please. Unless you write fiction, you have no idea how disconcerting this can be.

I didn’t experience this phenomenon until my second book, High Spirits at Harroweby. My protagonist, Selinda Harroweby (who was to have been modeled on William Congreve’s poem about “Pious Selinda”) has just fled to her chamber in a temper when there is a tap at her door. I hadn’t planned this, but thought perhaps the entry of a trusted servant would be a good opportunity to reveal back story. Instead, in walks a little girl in a nightcap. I had no idea who she was as first, but I soon learned that she was Selinda’s little sister, Lucy – and she had to be worked into the plot. As it turned out, she played a major role in the story and it became a much better book than I had planned

                  This strange phenomenon happens to writers all the time:

 It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.

–William Faulkner

One of my standard — and fairly true — responses to the question as to how story ideas come to me is that story ideas only come to me for short stories. With longer fiction, it is a character (or characters) coming to visit, and I am then obliged to collaborate with him/her/it/them in creating the story.

                                                 –Roger Zelazny

On my one and only longish story my characters surprised me several times by explaining to me in words of one syllable how they should behave and what their back story was. It surprised me at the time. I suspect it’s universal.

                     –Geoff (from a post on a website for transgender writers)

It’s good to know I’m not alone, because it happened again this week. I am working on another mystery, The Ghost Doll. My protagonist, Liz Venables, is a sculptor. In the opening scene, she is working on a new piece for an installation. She is hanging upside from an overhead pipe and wielding a blowtorch to reshape some wire mesh. This sort of thing is hard enough to describe without stretching the reader’s credulity to the snapping point, but all of a sudden in walks someone – man or woman I’m not sure – who greets Liz, “Hey there, monkey girl?” Some character I haven’t planned for has just walked into the novel. Friend? Sibling? Soon to be ex? No one else spouts that kind of talk. According to my synopsis, The Ghost Doll was supposed to be a much darker book than Fool’s Journey, but here comes this clownish character changing the sultry tone of Chapter 1. What gives?

I have learned from experience to go wherever my story wants to go, so there I went and was appalled:. The new interloper in The Ghost Doll says his name is Oscar. Fine, but not just Oscar: his name is Oscar Maier. Accepting though I might be of auto-creationism in fiction, I could only shudder. Sure, the surname was spelled differently than the commercial product, but a character named Oscar Maier is necessarily a weenie. And why would there be a weenie in my lovely, dark ghost story? Unless the story had changed itself when I wasn’t looking. It wanted a little humor perhaps? It didn’t want to take itself so seriously.

In a way it was a relief. Spending the next year or so writing a dark book didn’t sound like much fun — and clearly the book agreed. Once I let Oscar into the story, it flowed better. Suddenly there was banter instead of all that tedious introspection. I discovered that Oscar was Liz Venables’ half-brother. Admittedly, he a weenie, but good-natured, not too bright, dangerously inept, generous, spacey and gay. Liz needed someone like Oscar in her life to keep her spirits up in order to confront everything I plan to send her way.

When writers have to chase after characters, it must mean their books are alive, and their stories are playing out almost independent of governing hands. Weenie or not, Oscar tells me I’ve tapped into the source and I’d better stand back and let it flow. Knowing that writers may have little more control over the story than the reader keeps me humble, and reminds me to honor the Muse, whatever weenie she may send my way.

Visit Mary Chase Comstock at:

Thank you Mary for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit with My Book Addiction and More and our readers today!! 



Publisher:Renegade Books (August 30, 2011)

Sold by:Amazon Digital Services



Product Description(from Amazon)

Dubbed “Little Lizzie Borden” by the tabloids, a young girl took refuge in a series of private sanitariums, moving from one to another when the paparazzi found her. The hiding continued after her release at eighteen, until finally she disappeared entirely with a new name, identity and persona—or so she thought. Against the rain-washed backdrop of Seattle, surrounded by the images of tarot and the hidden messages of poetry, a woman must confront her past and make a decision: run again or face down the demons that haunt her still? Only a passage along the well-worn road of the Fool’s Journey will tell.

Book trailer for “The Fool’s Journey”:

(from the author’s website)

Read an excerpt

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Print



Thanks to Mary Chase Comstock we are offering 7 yes, that is 7 lucky commenters will have a chance to win “The Fool’s Journey” by Mary Chase Comstock. This giveaway will be for 5 e-book copies and 2 print copies. Print copies open to U.S. residents only.No P.O. Boxes please. Giveaway will run from today December 27 until January 3,2012.

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  1. I really enjoyed this interview and the blurb sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing the weenie story – love hearing an author's process.

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