Guest blogger Maria Murnane abandoned a successful career in public relations to pursue a more fulfilling life as a novelist and speaker. Since then, she has written four Waverly Bryson novels: The latest, Chocolate for Two, is fresh off the presses this week.
I often hear from fans of my books that they'd love to have Waverly
Bryson as a friend. This always makes me smile, because it shows that my
readers see Waverly as an actual person. In real life, people evolve over time
(or at least they should) but don't change who they are at the core, so the
challenge in writing four books with the same protagonist was to preserve her
fundamental personality while allowing her to mature. That was a tricky thing
to do, because I didn't want anyone to think I'd strayed too far from the Waverly
they'd fallen in love with in Perfect on
I didn't follow a particular strategy to allow Waverly to "grow up,"
but I did let her speak to me as I wrote the sequels to Perfect on Paper. That
may sound a bit nuts, but it's true. For each book, I'd sit at my computer,
come up with a general idea for a story, then ask myself a series of questions
as I went along. I believe following this approach worked, because allowing Waverly
to provide the answers helped shape three more books that stayed true to her.
For example, when Waverly realizes she might be losing Jake because of
her own insecurity in It's a Waverly Life,
I asked myself, How would this situation
make her feel? What would she do about it? In Honey on Your Mind, I decided it would be fun if Waverly were
offered a chance to work on a TV show but would have to move to New York to do
it. I asked myself, How would she feel
about leaving San Francisco?Where
would she want to live in New York, and why? Then, in Chocolate for Two, I wanted Jake and Waverly to get married but not
without some conflict, so I introduced Jake's frosty mother, whose plans for
the wedding differ dramatically from Waverly's. Here I thought, How would Waverly's life experience inform
her reaction to this realization? Then later, How would she explain to her friends—and herself—why she's not
standing up to Mrs. McIntyre?
For each question, large or small, I would wait for the answer to
reveal itself—and when it did, I wrote it down. I rarely forced the creative
process, but when I occasionally wound up with a line or section that just didn't
sound like something Waverly would say or do, I deleted or changed it.
What I love most about
Waverly Bryson is that she's real. And
by that I mean sincere. She's flawed,
but she tries her best to be a good person, no matter where she is in her
personal and professional development. I wanted that quality to shine through
in all four books, and I hope it did. And of course, wherever the future takes
her, she'll always have those cringe-worthy Waverly moments—some things will