Monday, February 19, 2007


Inkwell Display

Perhaps one of the most interesting things that has happened to me since real people started
reading my novel was that I've heard very strong reactions to my two protagonists. Though both characters are flawed in their own way, most readers felt they could forgive--or perhaps even identify with--the plight and weaknesses of one character, but rarely both. By phone, in email, in person, and even in reviews, I've found that if one character was loved, the other was almost certain to be reviled.

It made me think that in many ways, both heroine and villain are very much in the eye of the beholder. What I particularly love about all this is the very direct way readers are engaging with these characters. They filtered their childhoods, their relationships with friends, lovers, spouses, and children through the prism of the novel, seeing light here, and shadow there. And how they felt about Ali and Jeanne depended on what their experiences had taught them, and how their inborn nature had formed them.

So just for fun, I decided to devise an Ali and Jeanne quiz:

1. What is your general pattern in paying bills?

a) Pay them promptly as soon as they arrive.
b) Put them in a pile with every intention of getting to them by the end of the month.
c) Treat yourself to an expensive bottle of wine, buy a lavish gift for a friend; then see what's
left over to apply to the bills.

2. Which best describes your attitude toward music?

a) Listen to it occasionally, especially in the car.
b) Love it, but I'm not as avid a listener as I once was.
c) Couldn't live a day without it.

3) How do you deal with problems in your relationships?

a) I would do almost anything to avoid conflict.
b) I choose my battles.
c) I believe in confronting issues immediately and directly.

4) Is sexual infidelity ever justified?

a) Never
b) In certain cases, such as when partners are incompatible, and staying together out of necessity.
c) If the passion is strong enough, it's almost a duty to say yes to it.

5) If suffering from insomnia, how would you court sleep?

a) With a good novel that took me out of myself, and a prescribed sleeping pill.
b) A glass of wine, a good book, and a lavish bubble bath.
c) I would stay awake and consume the night.

The answers will be found in the comment section.

Meanwhile, the first person to guess whether I was an a, b, or c wins a signed copy of The Liar's Diary. Thanks for playing!


Patry Francis said...


Mostly As: You're a Jeanne.

Mostly Cs: You're a clear Ali

Mostly Bs: You are a complex character with a little of both in you. (Not that As and Cs aren't complex as well.)

To find out more about what it all means? Well, of course you'll have to read the book.

What a clever little marketer I've become...

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Very cool, Patry. I'm guessing you are a B person.

Patry Francis said...

Sharon: How did you know? Then again, we in the blogosphere know each other quite well, don't we?

I can't think of anyone I'd rather send a book! If you email me your address to, and let me know whether you'd prefer it inscribed or just signed, I'll get one right out to you!

Sam said...

I guessed 'b' too, but I was too late. As usual! lol! I think we're mostly b people in real life, but a 'c' person makes a wonderful fictional character! I can tell I'll perfer Ali to Jeanne, only because I'm a mix of 'a's and 'b's, lol, and we're always fascinated with the opposite of us.

Sam said...


I think I meant prefer.

Dave said...

You are of course a b. I see I won't be getting a free copy of your novel though. Nuts.

Anonymous said...

I'm a total jeanne (by this small test) which does not please me-- I wish I were more wildly outrageous and allowed my passions full reign, alas--


p.s. can't wait to read it! soon soon

robin andrea said...

I'm a little bit of both. I pay bills on time, but I can't go a day without music.

Patry Francis said...

sam: Interesting comment about being interested in those who are most unlike us. It's also the premise of Ali's friendship.

dave: I like your certainty.

blue poppy: Your dogs, on the other hand, are Cs all the way!

robin andrea: I think the music part is more significant...

Anonymous said...

1. A
2. B
3. C
4. B
5. A
So I'm more Jeanne than Ali. I was thinking you were more Jeanne than Ali but that might be me projecting myself on to you?

You're right. This is a fun marketing technique that stirs up my curiosity! Even before this and before you visited LL, I woke up thinking, "I wonder if I can order Patry's book from Barnes and Noble?"

The photo of Joe looking like Kenny (South Park character who doesn't talk because his jacket is zipped up over his mouth) was taken on the very most northern Atlantic side of Florida on our way home from Cedar Key. I bet you don't get all those dead jellyfish on the Cape.

I thought that was a ninja at first standing over your books in the bookstore!

Number 5: Actually, I would take valerian, tryptophan, wear a black mask and earplugs, and breath in some lavendar till I was out cold.

floots said...

i guess i'm a B too
anyway - being an ali or a jeanne would involve too much surgery for me :)
(though - in terms of the book - i'm with ali so far)

Anonymous said...

I love the photo. It must be so exciting to see your book on store shelves.

Anonymous said...

I knew you were a bit of both (just can't see you diving into a stack of bills when there are sand dunes to traverse and stories to write!). And I'll bet the music situation in your house ranges from silence to your son's electric guitar to anything from jazz to rock for you.

Tish, who is also a B.

Sustenance Scout said...

I'm a total A, Patry (and yes, I know what that stands for!). Funny about readers' distinct reactions to your two main characters, especially considering Ali and Jeanne's complex personalities (and motives, behaviors, backgrounds,etc.). Hmmmmmmmmm

Robin said...

I couldn't hate either of these women, Patry. There was a certain male I wouldn't have minded seeing chemically neutered, though.

See how nice I am? I could have said mechanically neutered. Ha.

I'm a B, too.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I forgot to mention that I'm a B too, Patry. I'm so excited to be getting a personalized copy!! Perfect timing, too, as I've been up all night with the stomach flu and at least this gives me something to smile about.

MB said...

Mostly Bs. Except for the music. Gotta have that.

Becca said...

I'm a B all the way - that's me, always a mixture of things :)

You are very clever to devise this little game -even though I've read the book, it makes me want to go back and study those characters some more!

Patry Francis said...

colleen: Actually, your projecting was quite accurate--except for the bills. I'm a b or sometimes even a c in that department. Credit card debt, anyone? Love the image of you sniffing lavendar in a black mask and earplugs till you pass out. I'll have to give that a try!

p.s. The ninja walking through the photo is Ted. He thought it ruined the photo, but I kind of liked it.

floots: Music lover.Unconventional. That long red gold hair...I'm willing to guess you've known an Ali or two in your life.

coll: I love the photo,too. An amazing local bookseller created this display, using various elements from the book. In the novel, various characters retreat to their local donut shop called "Ryan's" whenever things get tough. If you look at the photograph closely, you'll see a brown bag with "Ryan's Donut Shop" printed on the outside. And inside? Real lemon donuts.

Tish: You've probably heard all variations of music in the background during our marathon phone calls. But the bills...I try so hard to play the responsible citizen. How did you know?

K: It HAS been interesting, especially when people surprise me.
Last night, I was talking with a close friend, who I've always thought of as an Ali, but she, too, identified strongly with Jeanne, even recalling details I'd forgotten I wrote. Hearing readers "interact" with the characters really drives home the truth that once a book goes out there, it's not just the author's story anymore. It belongs to everyone who enters it.

robin: I've already learned that when I see a comment from you I better put whatever beverage I'm drinking aside before I erupt in laughter and splurt it all over the keyboard. And oh yes, you are so kind. I would probably have gone for the mechanical neutering.

sharon: Just about nothing can make me smile when I have a stomach flu, so I'm particularly glad you saw through my B-ness. (I would have guessed you were one, too.)

mb: I also believe you have Ali's hair.

Becca: As I recall, you weren't one who had a strong antipathy to either character. Maybe it was your balanced B-ness (as opposed to my imbalanced version.)

Judy said...

Me.... I'm a B. Almost right down the line. You? I'm sure I'm too late but I would guess you are Ali.

Judy said...

And... I'm wrong, wrong, wrong! lol. Blame the blonde roots. BTW, great article in WD.

Patry Francis said...

judy: I'd like to try being an Ali--at least for a day or two. Does that count? And thanks for commenting on the Writer's Digest article. I didn't know it had hit the stores yet.

Anonymous said...

I've just started the book so I can't say for sure (except that I can say I want to stop this exciting art project I'm working on and get further into the book). So far I'm a bit annoyed at Jeanne for her wishy washiness.

rdl said...

B's here, what a surprise.

steve on the slow train said...

I haven't read The Liar's Diary yet, but your quiz is intriguing. I was a B until the last question. I've developed the habit of going to sleep listening to audiobooks--preferably nonfiction. And no pills. So I'm closest to (a) on that one, but still a "none of the above."

Patry Francis said...

Tammy: Work on your exciting art project first! The novel will be there.

r: With a couple of As and Cs thrown in, I would say--though I won't say to which questions.

steve: Falling asleep to non-fiction audio books? Hmm...could htat be why you know so much about history?

Anonymous said...

(singing loudly with hands over eyes because I still haven't finished your book yet even though you're coming here on Saturday) LA LA LA LA LA

Still, I've been having a conversation with you in my head about the very definition of infidelity ever since you posted this. I thought you'd like to know that this is what I've been thinking about while doing things like setting up my new computer (!!!) and strategizing how best to clean the bathroom. Heh.

Incidentally, I answered 4 and 5 (d). The others were (a), (c), and (b). Heh. I wonder if that makes me not protagonist material? Oh, the broader metaphysical implications! Oh! Oh! ;)

Patry Francis said...

Sara: I'm sure you ARE protagonist material, but I promise never, ever to make you one.

Tinker said...

I'm late to the party, but thought I'd join in, anyway. My test results were mostly b's with a couple of c's thrown in for good measure. I did feel sympathy for both characters though - they became very real to me - I'm sure they did for you! - I had the urge to sit each of them down and engage in a heart to heart intervention though at different times in the novel. I'm still reeling from it all - as though all of it happened to real friends! Thank you for a helluva a good story and characters I'll be remembering for a long time to come!

BTW - I would have guessed you were a B as well - though with definite C inclinations :-)

Tinker said...

Oh - and I meant to tell you what a great display (and photo, too - my compliments to Ted).

Kerstin said...

I am late to this (bloglines hasn't been updating your new feeds). My answers:


Anonymous said...

Well, par for the course, I am completely and totally myself. I answered with two A's, one B, and two C's. Why am I not surprised? As a Champion Idealist (who make up only 3% of the population), I had a feeling I would not easily fall into either of these characters. But I am curious to find out which you are Patry. Of course, it will mean much more to me once I have the priviledge of reading your novel. I'd better get busy huh? I'm heading to itunes right now to see if its available to download.

Patry Francis said...

terri: You're right; I'm mostly bs. Hope it doesn't stand for boring--though in your case, the Cs definitely add spice. (I also seem to answer the quiz a little differently whenever I take it.) Take the infidelity question, sometimes I'm a very idealistic A; other days I tell myself B is the realistic, and in some cases, compassionate, answer.

kerstin: I enjoyed reading your answers. We are VERY similar. My answer to 5 was different, but mainly because my doctor doesn't believe in prescribing sleeping pills.

Leah: Thanks for checking out the blog, and taking the time to answer the quiz. I don't know exactly what a champion idealist is, but it sounds like my kind of person. Hope you enjoy the book!

Anonymous said...

Love the quiz! I had two As, 2 Bs, and a C, not necessarily in order. Also have a friend named Jeanne with a daughter named Aly, with a y -- a Cape girl, too. Am thinking the quiz will be quite a hoot for her.

Hannah Roveto

Tinker said...

Patry - You are ANYTHING but boring! Your test has popped up in my thoughts more than once over the last few days, so I came back to try it again. Now, I think I was being overly idealistic when I said I couldn't live a day without music - that may have been true once - but 'B' would be the more honest answer nowadays. I am still a nightowl though, so I guess that 'C' stands. As for 4 - though I believe in 'A' - I wouldn't want to judge someone who's spouse is incapacitated - a former neighbor's cared for their spouse in a long-term (over 20 yrs) vegetative state - and I couldn't bring myself to blame them if they ever decided to have some sort of a relationship (though I don't believe they ever have - but I would hope people would choose that "B' answer for her rather than pass judgement if she ever did).
Thanks for such interesting and thought-provoking questions!