I am a twitching ball of neurotic nerve-twitchery waiting for that first chunk of sky to fall and whack me on the head. I have emergency plans. I have a disaster closet. I am Worst Case Scenario Girl.
So it was difficult for me to write historian Bonnie Turkle, who practically whistles “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” through her nose while she sleeps. Bonnie sees the silver lining in any situation, even when it’s made of brass. She tries to see the good in people and situations because she needs to believe everything is going to work out fine.
Ultimately, this optimism gets her into trouble in Mud Creek, Kentucky, where she is sent by the Kentucky Commission on Tourism to salvage artifacts from the once-legendary McBride’s Music Hall. Before it closed, McBride’s was a stop on the country western performance circuit and the rhythm and blues circuit, putting it at a crossroads in American musical culture. Bonnie needs to prove the significance of the building before it is bull-dozed to make room for an underwear plant. Mayor Will McBride – who happens to be the grandson of the original owner - is desperate to secure this factory to provide much-needed jobs for his neighbors. And the musical artifacts Bonnie finds put that potentially town-saving proposal in jeopardy. Bonnie must find a way to compromise with Will to save McBride’s and the town… and figure out the strange growing flirtation between them.
Bonnie understands that the town needs the factory and the jobs it will bring with it, but she can’t resist her need to preserve the music hall and its legacy. So she does some things that could be construed as “not quite above board” to get it declared a protected historical site. She’s not behaving this way out of ambition or selfishness. She believes she’s doing the right thing. She has to believe that, in the end, it will all work out.
I had to strike a careful balance in the character, giving her a positive, sweet personality, while still making her someone readers would want to hang out with and root for. Trying to get inside Bonnie’s head, an 80-percent-cynicism-free-zone, meant ignoring my usual instincts and thinking really, really nice thoughts about all of the characters Bonnie comes into contact with. It started to change my personality during non-writing hours. I found myself smiling more and humming to myself while doing housework. I stopped making rude gestures at people who cut me off in traffic. It was terrifying.
I hope that readers enjoy Bonnie’s can-do attitude and positivity. But from now on, I’m sticking with sarcastic, cranky characters. It’s more in my comfort zone.
You can check out Molly and her books at http://mollyharper.com/.