Monday, June 28, 2010

Me and My Protagonist

Diane Fanning is the Edgar-nominated author of ten true crime books and four mystery novels. She has been featured on 48 Hours, 20/20, Forensic Files and radio stations from coast to coast. She is currently under contract for two additional true crime books and has a new mystery novel coming out January 1, 2011. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she now lives in New Braunfels, Texas.

How much of your main protagonist is autobiographical?

It seems to be a perennial question for fiction writers and I’ve heard it, too, since I started writing the series about Virginia homicide detective Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce. Simply put, in my case, the answer is not much.

For starters, Lucinda is 5’11” and I’m only 5’2”—wishful thinking? Maybe.

Our childhoods bear only the vaguest of similarities. Although I have some of my own traumas, they pale in comparison to the ones in Lucinda’s life. She was a teenager when she watched her mother crumple and die and then heard the gunshot that signaled her father’s suicide. Lucinda’s face is scarred and one eye missing as a result of her attempts to protect another woman during a domestic violence call early in her career as a police officer.

Lucinda and I have very different jobs. Although I write about crime and murder in my non-fiction true crime books and in my fiction series, I’ve never had to draw a gun and no one has ever aimed one at me. Lucinda does that and actually solves cases and puts the bad guys behind bars. I just write about it.

So where do Lucinda and I intersect? In some ways, I created the woman I want to be—a woman who stands up for her principles, empathizes with victims and lets nothing stand in the way of her ardent pursuit for justice. She’s a woman of courage who doesn’t hesitate in the face of danger—one who is ready to barge in where angels feared to tread.

But, I didn’t want to create a Superwoman—I wanted someone real, a person who screws up from time to time, like we all do. I gave her a couple of my flaws, like a constant questioning of authority and a willingness to forgo the permission process and hope to survive the forgiveness part.

Then, I gave her some faults of her own: her aversion to commitment that extended to friendships as well as relationships; an estrangement from her family; permanent impatience with process and occasionally with people; and a pathological aversion to the FBI and male drivers.

In The Trophy Exchange and Punish the Deed, Lucinda tracked down serial killers. In the latest book, Mistaken Identity, she chases the perpetrator of a double murder. The 11-year-old son of the two victims refuses to believe his father is dead insisting that his Dad gained immortal life after making a pact with the devil many identities ago.

To solve the murder, Lucinda needs to untangle the boy’s web of fantasy, unravel the lies that conceal the motive for the crime and travel to Texas in pursuit of a lead. Along the way, she breaks a few rules, irritates a number of people but gets the job done.

She feels very real to me—in fact, I even dreamed about her once, much to my surprise. I like Lucinda Pierce and I admire her. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure about what she’d think of me. Dare I insert a meeting in a future book? Do I really want to know how she’d react? I don’t know—do you?

Diane Fanning


  1. Diane, love your write up and love the books.

  2. Thank you, Bontie! Appreciate that you took the time to make a comment.

  3. Mistaken Identity sitting right next to me.

  4. ACK, I'm not anonymous, I'm Bontie. Sorry.

    P.S. Marilyn Meredith writes a great series. I must get her new ones also.

  5. I haven't read Marilyn Meredith. I'll have to add her to my TBR list.