Usually, when I begin thanking people for helping me through a novel, it is a bit like a curtain call, saving the star for last. That person is always my wife, whom I thank the universe for every day. That has not changed, but the one person I have to give the most thanks to for this novel, Molly: House on Fire, is Molly Kincaid. You might think it odd that I would thank a fictional character, but then you may not know how Molly and I became friends. She appeared during the writing of my first novel, Out on the Sound, when it was just the wife reading what I wrote. I needed a lawyer for my main characters, Decky and Charlie. Suddenly, this image of a Jodie Foster look-a-like, strolling into a courtroom, leapt into my brain.
It was a joke, really, between my wife and I. When I was much younger, I was asked often if I was the famous little girl actress. We had the same hair and freckles and I must admit, the resemblance was striking at times, as we both went through changes. I do not look at all like Jodie now, but for those early years, I wore that label with pride. So, when I needed a lawyer, this Jodie-like woman popped into my head, Molly Kincaid. I do not know where the name came from. It was what she whispered to me and I just wrote it down. From the first time she appeared on the page, Molly basically told me who she was. I knew in that moment, one day I would have to tell her story. I had no idea what that story would be, but I knew she had one.
Molly appeared in each successive novel, if only for one line, even if I did not identify her by name. After all, who does not need a high-powered defense attorney occasionally? In some novels, she revealed more about her character. Harper, Lauren, and the Sweet Carolina Girls called on Molly to get them out of a jam. I never had to think when I wrote scenes with Molly. She simply told me what to say, where she worked, how she lived. I was as surprised as anyone, when Lizbeth dialed the phone in Waking Up Gray and Molly answered. Who knew Molly’s best friend was a socialite divorcee? I certainly did not. We, the readers and I, found out more about Molly’s personal life, the kind of friend she was, and that she liked hot blonds.
Then came Before It Stains. The moment came when Molly appeared. She said, “Hey, I want in on this one.” I had no intention of giving Stephanie an old flame, let alone knew it was Molly. I sat back from the computer and their entire relationship played out in my head like a movie. I sat back up to the keyboard and let Miss Molly tell the tale. Again, we learned so much more about her. I realized somewhere along the way, that I was creating a whole world of characters and they were all tied to one person. The time had come for Molly to tell her story.
All I knew about Molly was what I had written in the novels. I set about the task of searching every book for anything remotely connected to her. I walked the floor, talked my wife’s ears off, and waited. I asked the walls, “Who are you Molly Kincaid? Where were you born? What brought you to this time and place? What is your backstory, Molly?” One day she told me the prologue, pretty much as it is written. I wrote it and turned to my wife, asking her to listen. I did not make it through that first reading. I gasped in the middle of it and could not continue. I looked at my wife with tears streaming down my face and said, “I did not mean to write that. Oh my, that’s painful.” I weighed the heaviness of that scene against the lighthearted romance novel I intended to write. Molly insisted I start from there and then she laid out the rest of the book, piece by piece. I did persist in having my romance, with which she, begrudgingly at first, complied.
So, thank you, Molly. I have enjoyed our friendship. I cannot imagine writing without you. Your story was fun to write, even if it had its dark moments. Your courage, integrity, and yes, your heart inspired me. I enjoyed every moment and am glad to finally know you, all of you. Until we meet again, good golly Miss Molly, that sure was a ball.