March 7, 2011

GREAT CHARACTER with Author Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Writer

Lauren Baratz-Logsted left her day job as an independent bookseller in 1994 to take a chance on herself as a writer. While trying to get published, over the next eight years she worked as many as four part-time jobs at once to keep the bills paid. She also wrote seven novels during that time period, the sixth of which, The Thin Pink Line, was the one that finally sold. Since 2003, she’s had 19 books published for adults (Vertigo; Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes), teens (Crazy Beautiful; The Education of Bet), tweens (Me, In Between) and even young children (The Sisters 8 series). In 2011, she’ll have three more books published, including Little Women and Me, about a contemporary teen who literally gets sucked into the classic Louisa May Alcott novel where she discovers herself to be a fifth March sister.

You can learn more about Lauren and her literary works at her [website] and by checking her out on [Twitter].

The Book

Lucy Sexton is stunned when a disheveled woman appears at the door one day…a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lucy's own beautiful mother. It turns out the two women are identical twins, separated at birth, and raised in dramatically different circumstances. Lucy's mother quickly resolves to give her less fortunate sister the kind of life she has never known. And the transformation in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But when Helen begins to imitate her sister in every way, even Lucy isn't sure at times which twin is which. Can Helen really be trusted, or does her sweet face mask a chilling agenda? Set in Victorian England, The Twin’s Daughter is a twisty tale of mystery, suspense, and even romance.

Click the cover above to order your copy of The Twin's Daughter today!


In your opinion, what are the ingredients to making a great character?
In a book on creative writing, I once came across a quote about character that really struck home with me, something along the lines of, "Everything I say is to either make you think I'm wonderful or feel sorry for me." I think there's a lot of truth in that and, further, I think great memorable characters do both: their situations arouse our sympathies and the way they handle those situations arouse our admiration. Take, for one example, Angel Hansen from my first Young Adult novel Angel's Choice. At the end of the summer before her senior year in high school, Angel goes to a party at which, after something happens to upset her, she gets incredibly drunk. In an act that she can't even clearly remember afterward, she both loses her virginity and winds up pregnant. Previously on the fast track for Yale, Angel must decide how best to handle the situation she finds herself in. I do think she inspires reader sympathy. Even if the reader says, "But I'd never drink so much I didn't know what I was doing," there has to be some sympathy for the price paid for one stupid mistake. But I think it's in the way Angel ultimately handles her predicament that readers grow to admire her. As one teen reader wrote in an actual letter - sent through the U.S. mail! with a real stamp! not email! - "This book has taught me to make my own decisions." As a writer, you can't hope for better than that. Well, you can also hope for untold millions of dollars and international bestseller status, but you probably won't get that.

Who is your favorite character from someone else's work and why?
Florentino Ariza from Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Florentino does many questionable things, but he waits fifty-one years, nine months and four days for a second chance to declare his "eternal fidelity and everlasting love" to the love of his life, Fermina Daza, making him my kind of guy.

Who is your favorite character from one of your works and why?
It has to be Kit Tyler from The Twin's Daughter. Kit is the only purely heroic character I've ever written.


I was thirteen the year everything changed with a single knock at the door.

It was a strong door, sturdy oak, the kind designed to keep the worst of the world’s elements outside while keeping safe the occupants on the inside. My mother was making the rounds of the neighborhood, as she often did on weekdays, preferring the use of her own feet to the carriage, while my father was no doubt at his club, regaling his friends with stories concerning the progress of the latest novel he was writing; born into great wealth, my father could afford to treat his career with leisure.

I don’t know where the servants were when that knock came. For surely it should have been one of their jobs to answer it. But as I sat on the floor of the back parlor, in front of the fire, my long skirts all about me on the carpet with the drawings I was working on spread out along the perimeters of those skirts, the knock came again, more insistent this time. I thought to ignore it – the self-portrait I was working on, showing my long dark hair off to best advantage, was really coming along too nicely to be disturbed! It was probably just one of my mother’s friends. Or perhaps it was one of the beggars who occasionally found their way to our front steps, quickly made short shrift of by Cook providing food we no longer wanted at the back. But then the thought occurred to me: what if it was something – however improbable – important?

With reluctance, I set down my charcoal pencil. Brushing off my skirts to straighten them as I rose, I made my way to the source of the knocking, opening the door just in time to see the caller turning away.

The caller’s back to me, from behind I made out the tall figure of a woman, so painfully thin as to make me want to feed her, her long gray dress bearing the stains of the elements we usually tried to keep out. Her hair, also glimpsed only from behind, was a naggingly familiar thick hank of gold that no amount of living hard could tarnish, nor could it be kept completely under control by the pins that sought to bind it up in a twist; the tendrils would escape, wisping their way onto the air. Both hands were gloveless despite the frigid day, and in one she carried a threadbare carpetbag.

“Can I help you?” I asked, catching her attention before she started away.

She turned slowly. At first, her eyes were downcast, but as she moved them upward to meet mine, there came a shock of recognition as I took in the familiar bright blue of hers and knew where I had seen that hair before. It was the same place I had seen that porcelain skin, although, I must confess, I had never seen it quite like this: with soot smudges on it. It was as though she had been cleaning out fireplaces herself and hadn’t a looking glass to consult before leaving her home.

I couldn’t prevent a gasp from escaping my body. “Mother?” I said, reaching a hand out to her. “What has happened to you?”

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