Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Meet Mardi-Jean Payne—My entry in the Character Blog Roll

Author Carole Wolf invited me to participate in the character blog roll for my most recent work in progress, In Passing, a romance set in the present, but dependent upon the past. Mardi-Jean Payne is the main character in a novel populated by generations of women of the south and their memories.

1). What is the name of your character, and is he/she fictional or a historical person?

Her name is Mardi-Jean Payne, the Jean is pronounced as a French speaker would. Her mother, Agnes, named her Mardi-Jean because she believed her father was a French guy named Jean, with whom she had a Mardi Gras fling in 1968. Mardi is a fictional character.

2). When and where is the story set?

The story is set in 2014, on a fictional island, in the middle of the very real John H. Kerr Reservoir, north of Warrenton, NC, where the southern drawl was passed down by the founding families of colonial Virginia, who settled this portion of the piedmont. The accent hangs on to this day, like the social class designations and private clubs, and now flows from a workman’s tongue as easily as it drips from the lips of former debutantes and southern gentleman farmers . The reader will also accompany two half-sisters, born in 1920, as they navigate the old south, Europe during World War II, and the social changes in their lifetime, through the memories of the one who remains.

3). What should we know about him/her?

Mardi is forty-five, the daughter of a pot smoking, old hippie, artist mother and an unknown father. She is an old soul, preferring the things and people of the past to those of the present, prompting her mother to say, “You live in the wrong tense, Mardi-Jean.” She has a master’s degree in Art History and is an antiquities appraiser by trade. Life hasn’t been too kind to Mardi in the love department. She explains to her therapist, “I’m a serial girlfriend. I just keep repeating the same mistakes, perfecting the pattern. Darkly dashing and enchantingly mysterious women seem to be my victim of choice. The mystery always turns out to be why they bothered with me in the first place.” A longing she can’t name and ambivalence toward relationships has left her empty and alone. Her mother’s recent passing unsettled her already dysfunctional psyche. Plagued with self-doubt and constant reflection, Mardi is on the verge of giving up hope the feeling of longing will ever leave, and her quest for the peace of “enough” will be never ending.

4). What is the main conflict, and what messes up his/her life?

Upon arriving at Austin Island, the Antebellum estate occupied by a family tracing its roots to colonial times, Mardi discovers a cash of antiquities and art she had only dreamed of finding. For years, she gazed from her mother’s lakeside dock at the mysterious island, watching the Austins from afar, imagining the rumors were true—Austin Island contained treasures beyond belief. Contracted by the Kincaid Law Firm, <a wink to readers who recognize that surname>, Mardi's appraisal assignment is cloaked in mystery, as she is given no details before her arrival. The granddame of the family, Emma Jane Austin, nearing ninety and suffering from dementia, believes Mardi to be someone from her past. Since childhood, haunted by dreams of a woman with uncommon and captivating gray eyes, and coming face to face on Austin Island with them in the person of Bayard Alexander, Emma Jane’s great-niece, Mardi begins to think the old woman might be on to something. A family history of secrets and unknowns pose more of a mystery than the discovery of the vast Austin collection's worth, as Mardi tries to retain her professional integrity, while dealing with the charming Ms. Alexander, the woman of her dreams—and nightmares.  

5). What is the personal goal of the main character?

Mardi struggles daily with a longing she can’t name, until she meets Bayard and discovers the hole in her soul has been waiting for this woman to come along. Is she the answer to Mardi’s prayers, or a means for the hole to deepen and the longing to go unquenched? What about the artwork of questionable provenance? Can Mardi maintain a professional distance and her integrity, without bringing the house of Austin to the ground, and Bayard with it?

6). Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is In Passing and I write about it in Facebook posts almost daily now. Follow this link to join in the fun.

7). When can we expect the book to be published?

I’m guessing about six weeks, but that is a guess. We are renovating our entire house and things just happen. When I know for sure, I’ll post on this blog, social media, and the R. E. Bradshaw Books website, (

"Seconds tick by. Minutes pass. Hours, days, months, and years mark the passage of time, arriving simultaneously on the anniversary of a memory’s making and the creation of a new one somewhere else in the world. A fragment in time means all to one and nothing to another. Defining moments are deferred by fate and lost because of it. Once spent, an instant cannot be held again, never repeated, becoming instead a memory inspiring lamentation or laughter. Our lives are merely a series of moments in passing."

Thank you, Carole Wolf, for inviting me to play. (Carole's blog entry with answers about her character can be found here: I'm usually at the tale end of these blog rolls and can never find anyone left to tag. I have a rain-filled tarp over my roofless house at the moment, and I'm a little preoccupied with keeping our things from being destroyed by today's four inch deluge, so if you feel like playing, tag yourself. 

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