Why Dying to Live?

Many people think that Dying to Live in Palm Beach was written in homage to my mother.  It’s not.  However, the main character, Flossy Kane is an idealized version of my mother, Flossy Silverman.  As much as I wanted the character to be different from my mother, how could I find a name that had as much personality as Flossy? As much pizzazz?  I gave up trying and realized my heroine would have to be the Flossy who was admired, enjoyed and loved all her life.  Had I embarked on a serious novel about my much more complicated mother, I would still be writing.   This is much more fun.

I realized I had good material after spending so much time with my mother in Palm Beach during her waning years.  Although for much of the time I spent there I thought of what else I should or could be doing at home, I could viscerally understand why my mother and her friends felt so good in Palm Beach.  Although their daily lives were not so different from their routines up north, life was gayer there.

I originally thought of these women as stereotypical widows, but as I came to know them, I realized that life was gayer in Palm Beach because they made it so.  They ameliorated their loneliness, their anxieties, and their fears by amusing themselves and each other…each in her own way. “The girls,” as they call themselves in my book, are composites of my mother’s friends; their jokes and conversations are those I heard when I was with them; the murders, however, are imaginary—I  hope!

Flossy Kane’s sidekick, Frances Cardozo, is also modeled on a real person, Lisa Marrero, who was my mother’s home health care aide for the last year of her life.  But Lisa was much, much more for my mother—they became true friends, and I hope I have captured their relationship in the book.  I also learned a lot about Lisa’s life and career during that year, and I tried to convey a bit of what life is like moving into someone’s home and becoming an instant family member—or not.

So I had my venue, and I had characters, and I had a motive in mind…but it did not all gel until one night when my husband and I were out to dinner with another couple.  Still carrying on their conversation while paying the bill, the men took each other’s credit card.  In real life, we realized the mistake almost immediately—but the cards looked just alike.  They could easily have kept each other’s card for a month and not realized anything was awry until their statements arrived…and then, only if they bothered to look at the charges. Eureka!  It could all start innocently enough…

But, you may wonder, how did I come up with the murderer’s scheming, deceitful, and unscrupulous behavior? Some comes from headlines; some from everyday behaviors I have observed; and scarily (to me), some comes from my imagination.

And speaking of imagination, what I did not know when I sat down to write the book, with my cast of characters and plot outlines, quotations and jokes, is how—and I know many writers say this, and I never believed them—my characters started behaving and talking on their own.  Stories and ideas I never knew I had in my head became part of their conversations and actions.  I truly do not understand the magic, but it happened.

So now that these characters have become part of my life, I do not want to lose them—except, unfortunately, the ones I had to kill off.  Having not written about them, nor been in their world for over a year, I miss them…so I am looking forward to sitting down again with Flossy and Frances, and the remaining “girls” for their next adventure:  Dying to Live in Paris.