Character Study: Liz Gardner

If you’re reading this blog, you should be aware that the title, “These Foolish Things,” is the title of my first published novel. Part of the function of this blog is shameless self-promotion for said book and its sequel, “At Last.” ( I like old classic songs. Deal with it). And, well, any other books coming down the pike. I have a small fan base (I would like to say rabid, but they are, for the most part, very polite. Unless you smack talk a Boston team). I am thinking that perhaps, if you should be reading this blog, I may be able to pique your interest in my books by talking more in depth about the characters, the inspiration behind things. If not, I practice my writing, I have something appropriate for the Twitter co-promotion group I belong to, and I’m no worse off than I was before I typed this.

Let’s start with our heroine, Elizabeth Gardner.

A local blogger/reviewer (Deliza’s Dirty Dramas review)) has suggested that Liz should be played by Laura Linney in a movie.


When I wrote the book back in 2001, I was thinking more Julianne Moore:


Or Cate Blanchett:


A little background (and I’m probably repeating myself): in my teens, I read Harlequin Romances and Barbara Cartland and Regency romances until they came out my ears. They were all the impossibly gorgeous heroines, handsome, dashing, wealthy heroes there to rescue them. Or whatever. (with the historic novels, I was more interested in the descriptions of dresses, which, if you saw me and heard what some folks have to say about my wardrobe, is kind of a head-scratcher. I read Vogue, but don’t have the body or budget for the wardrobe. And stilettos are out. My right knee and frequent ankle twists say so).

As I got older, I read “Gone With the Wind,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” My idea of ideals changed. While the heroes of these books were take charge kind of guys, the heroines weren’t sitting around waiting to be rescued, even if they were in trouble, I liked that. And the stars of these classics were not perfect. (Physically attractive, but the emphasis was on their internals: passion, intelligence, courage. The things that don’t fade)

Jump forward to 2000: I’m no longer a twenty something who thinks her life is going to be fantastic and is relatively pretty.


That was me at 20. Relatively pretty.

At 39, I was heavier, had been through a lot of life, and was no longer confident that I would find a significant other. I had had friends tell me that they had family members fall in love and marry for the first time in their forties. I didn’t see those stories being shown in the media. I didn’t see women like me; older, wiser, more self-possessed who were capable of rescuing themselves, if necessary.

I was also telling myself that if I wanted to be a best selling author, I needed to actually, I don’t know, write something.

Enter Elizabeth Gardner. The last name (as stated in previous posts) came from a town in Massachusetts.. Elizabeth? I like the name. I’m a British history buff and a fan of Queen Elizabeth I. I like the name and it’s variations (Isabelle, Isabella, Betsy, Beth). Was I thinking of Elizabeth Bennett? Perhaps on a subconscious level. Her middle name is Duer and for the life of me, I cannot remember where that came from. Sorry.

Liz is NOT me. I gave her some of my physical characteristics (blonde hair, blue eyes. I like having blonde hair and blue eyes). She’s nowhere near as heavy as I am. I wanted someone who wasn’t a heart-stopping lay gorgeous specimen and someone who was more of an undiscovered jewel. I wanted her to have the determination, wit, and heart of my heroines from the classics.

I gave her some of my life experiences because I remembered them well enough to describe them (strained relationship with parents, struggling with the bar exam, no real love life, but hopeful while being wary). I was a decent batter for my company softball team. After freshman year of high school, I have never been part of an athletic team; I gave up on myself in Algebra, my GPA was below the school’s minimum for extra-cirricular activities, so…

As for breast cancer: from 1997 to 2006, I did some pretty good fund raising for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (American Cancer Society), the Massachusetts chapter. I raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 all told.

Liz is a breast cancer survivor. I am not. I have friends who have gone through the disease at various ages, including as young as thirty, and have had treatments ranging from chemo taking care of everything to mastectomy + chemo + years of terror waiting for it to come back.

I wanted to create a heroine with whom women “of a certain age” could identify. Someone whom a reader would want as a friend or co-worker.

There are fashions and trends in romance literature: vampires yielded to kinky billionaires who have now yielded to time travel (“Outlander’s” success has spawned imitators) and motorcycle gangs (“Sons of Anarchy has inspired a lot of of fan fiction). Not passing judgment on the writing. They’re all escapist in that the average reader is unlikely to encounter those kinds of characters.

Who knows? If enough folks like Liz, maybe I’ll start a new trend.

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