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May 24, 2012



That is sad, I adore Becky Jack!

Jaya Lakshmi

Personally, I liked Becky because she was a role model mother with good values. Also, she lost weight after having four kids; how is that not awesome?


I love Becky, too, and I am a kidless teenager who hasn't graduated high school yet. The thing is, I don't think that age=relatability. Becky is older than I am and a mother, but that doesn't mean I don't relate to what she feels. Everybody has felt despair, betrayal, exhilaration and agony. These are very human emotions, and as long as the main character is feeling something, I'll probably at least understand.

Besides, isn't the point of a book to get inside someone else's head?


I didn't hate Becky. I didn't love reading about her because I couldn't relate to her (I'm unmarried, have no children, am not Mormon, and am not from Utah), but just because I can't relate to a character doesn't mean that I'll hate the character. I like Becky; I wouldn't mind having dinner with her some night. Really, it was more that A&H wasn't my kind of read that did it; if Becky had been a character in a different book (where she probably wasn't the protag), I'd probably have been, "Becky Jack was a great secondary character, and I'd love to be her neighbor." I don't really need to relate to a character to like the character; I don't usually read to relate. I read because it's something to do and sometimes, the worlds are awesome. I mean, in a way, I think we'd rather not relate to a character; we want the character to be so much more awesome than we are, being presented with opportunities that we will never have. And maybe we have some traits in common and maybe some aspects of our lives are similar, but - at least as far as fantasy goes - that's not why we read. We read for the chance to experience the impossible. Realistic fiction is more complicated, since there's the cute, fun stuff and then there's the heavy books, but to some extent, too, I don't read to relate to the abused main character. I read because it seems like a fascinating book.

I read YA, so the characters are younger; it's hard to find books with college-aged protagonists. At this point, I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction; it's primarily speculative fiction, which I think removes some of the need to relate with the character. You can still relate, but you also know that you'll never actually be in a situation like that character's. Maybe something similar, but you have to remove all the magic and the fact that someone's trying to take over the world, and that changes things.

And, interestingly enough, I always preferred reading younger. It felt safer, somehow. Now, I wish I could find more protagonists in their early twenties, but I'm also fine reading about fifteen-year-olds. I struggle to get emotionally attached to books, so I guess for me, it doesn't much matter. I read more objectively and distantly.


To be honest I've never thought much about how I relate to the MC of a book. I like a book because of the plot or character development or just the overall story. But maybe I've done it subconsciously and never really noticed. I'll have to think about this...

Rebecca Watson

My definition of "old" is: You are old when you wish you were younger.

I think we often read about what we want to be-- in age, adventures, romance, etc. Except, of course, for when we read about what we are really glad is NOT happening to us! ;) Perhaps the best books combine the two.

To some extent, this is why I love The Actor and the Housewife. It was a mom's daydream expanded and brought to life. Really fun, exactly what I'd love to be, and exactly what I don't want to be, all rolled into one. I was shocked when I recommended it to my book club and, after they all read it, discovered they were scandalized! After several discussions about it, the resounding conclusion was not that they didn't like the book, or Becky, or the writing. They didn't believe a friendship like that can- or should- exist. I guess I figured it was fiction and enjoyed laughing out loud at the parts of me I saw in Becky and the glee I felt that the embarrassing moments were hers, and not mine.

thank you for writing books that let me laugh and feel young again.

Rebecca Pi =)


Just to weigh in:

I thought Becky Jack was a lovely character and I had no trepidation about reading her! I DID have trepidation about Midnight in Austenland; I bought it in hardcover anticipating having trouble connecting with a "mom character." I was shocked when I devoured the book in two days and loved Charlotte! I've never been married and never had children, but I found Charlotte very relatable despite our difference in circumstances. I really admired her growth and strength; I think I found her similar to me in personality rather than circumstances.

Conclusion: it shouldn't be about how much a character may or may not be like you, because they might surprise you.

Rachael M

Who doesn't like Becky Jack? That is just wrong. She is just so lovable and endearing. Of course, I am a Mormon housewife too, and read the book right after the birth of my second son, so I suppose I find her more relatable than some of your other readers do. However, I am not nearly as capable as Becky, nor do I have a handsome British actor for a best friend. ;) I liked Charlotte Kinder, too, and although I don't have a crappy cheater of an ex-husband, I was rooting for her all the way. The scene at the end when she talks to said ex-husband had me inwardly cheering and outwardly tearing up a little. But I think I really love all of your main characters-- probably because they are all strong and principled and smart. Those admirable qualities, for me, are the key to whether or not I love a character, even those who are very different from me.

Erin Day

I'm 23 years old and I love Actor and the Housewife. I'm not married, and I'm not a mother. I love Becky Jack. She was funny, strong, and everything I someday hope to be. Honestly, I think that book might be one of my favorites. I read it at a time when all my best friends were getting married, and the part where she just missed her best friend had me sobbing (other stuff had me crying too...I don't usually cry. I bawled like a baby in that book). I felt such a strong emotional connection to the characters. Becky most of all. It probably won't ever be your best selling book, but it spoke to me, and helped me during that Christmas break when I felt so very lonely. It hit every point that I love in a book. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it taught me something, and it distracted me.

Alysa (Ruby Diamond)

I completely agree with your list (short list, only two points) of MCs it's hard to relate to. It is so bothersome when you think you know what a character will do -- you're so in sync -- and then they throw you for a total loop!

That happened to me at the end of the second Mysterious Benedict Society book and it nearly soured the whole thing for me. But then I remembered how awesome the first nine tenths were.


Becky Jack is awesome! I'm 17, from Maine, and Catholic and she's still probably on my list of top 10 favorite book characters. I don't know why I like her so much, but I think there definitely is something about her that everyone should learn from. Thanks for bringing her to us!


I like to read a few years older than me (I'm twelve). I probably could relate to an older MC, but there are little to no adult MCs in YA literature.


I think authors sometimes try to make their characters too relatable so that what happens is characters in different books all feel the same, and real life is just not that way! The world is full of different characters. I loved Becky Jack BECAUSE she is different. I love her because everything she does makes sense to her character. Life is unpredictable, but characters, when you really know them, are predictable.


I absolutely LOVE Becky Jack! I felt like "finally someone who can see and admit to having a guy friend, really good friend, even a best friend and yet still be completely faithful to her husband!" I have guy friends who have taken a backseat in my life mainly because of geographical distance now, but partly because I'm married. It was so refreshing to see her remain true to her husband even while filming the movie and especially after her husband died! I admit I kind of expected them to get together after that, but I was pleasantly surprised that you did go down that predictable road!


I agree with your two points, especially the first. For instance, I love reading cozy mysteries, although God forbid that I would ever commit a murder. But it's not the story I'm relating to, exactly, but the detective. And I automatically eliminate all detectives who sleep around, right off the top. Which means I only read about 50% of the cozy genre and I relate better to Poirot than Phryne Fisher, even though Phryne is much closer to me in every outward characteristic. So maybe relatability is relative?

Rachel F.

I think as a writer, this is one of the hardest things to do (at least for me); to make the characters relatable to the characters. To do this, you have to make them real, and in order to do this, you must truly know your characters. This is always hard for me, and I don't think I really know my characters until several drafts into the story. As a reader, I don't have problems relating to characters as long as the writer lets me get into their head and know how they are feeling and it makes sense. Sometimes, (ok, always) it's so much easier being a reader than a writer!

Rachel F.

Oops! I meant make the characters relatable to the readers.


I didn't realize you wrote Austenland before you were married. I always thought it was something you wrote later on, nearer to its publishing.

I find your points on why a MC can be harder to relate to interesting. I've definitely been guilty of the second--being surprised, and maybe dissappointed in a character's actions because it's not something I would have done, and figured they wouldn't either. I think it makes me trust the character less, and therefore the author less. Not that there is any logic to it. Reading is an emotional experience for me, not always a logical one.

I think I can relate to a broad range of characters even if I'm not in their stage of life right now. I've read a few Mrs. Pollifax novels and enjoy them because I would love to be a cool old lady like that. If I felt I had to relate to the MC in every book in order to enjoy it that would sure limit my reading.


I just finished reading Actor/Housewife for the third time (and enjoyed it just as much!), and Becky Jack's character resonated with me even more than before. This time her role as a wife stuck out to me more, but I was also able to identify with other characters in a new way, including Felix. I try to read with an open mind, glad when I can identify with a certain character and willing to learn something new about myself and the world when I do not.


i like becky but she wasn't my favorite because i felt like her personality was a little too soft and caring (i would love her to death in reality but i like something more exiting in a novel)


but becky was a very interesting character that i had never seen before


Every character we read about becomes a little part of us. When I read Princess Academy, I become smart and knowledgeable like Miri. When I read Goose Girl, I become powerful and able like Isi and Enna. When I read the Actor and the House Wife I become, hopeful and caring like Becky. I could relate to these book not because our situations or our ages are the same, but because they became a part of who I am and who I want to be.


I just turned 18 and throw out every issue of Seventeen magazine that comes in the mail. I subscribed circa age 14 and used to devoured every issue in one sitting. Now it just keeps coming as magazine subscriptions notoriously do (I don't think I've paid for it since initially subscribing), and I keep ignoring it. Though, after briefly flipping through a few recent issues, I shudder to think of my 12 year old self coming across some of those articles...

It's funny that you point out that age phenomenon because it's something I've always been aware of but have never put into words. When I pick up a book and see in the summary that it's about, say, a twenty-something, I usually put it pack down. Twenty-somethings are out of my element, even though in about a year and half, I'll be twenty. Yikes! At any rate, I definitely feel more comfortable reading the familiar, but it IS fun to branch out every now and again.

I've noticed I also like reading about childhoods that are different than the one I experienced. I like to think about how my life might have turned out in that MC's shoes. :)

Paige MacPherson

I'm not married, I don't have kids, and I'm not Mormon, and I love Becky!

When I read books and find myself deeply invested with the MCs, I subconsciously categorize them into three different ways: sometimes I directly relate myself to the MC, constantly seeking parallels between the two of us (like with Isi); or I might look at a MC and love them, but don't compare them to myself (I call these my best-friend MCs, like Becky); in the last category I may love the MC, but I can't see myself in them, nor do I necessarily want to be friends with them. These last MCs are characters that I like to view from a far, I'm interested in their story and probably appreciate who they are as a character, but I don't want to invest myself into who they are (I did this with Dashti).


I'm not so concerned with the age of the MC as I am with the content of the book. I've found that Young Adult Fiction is often cleaner and more enjoyable. When I read books with a protagonist in his/her 20's, they often get into a lot more "mature" situations. But YAL is just as exciting and fun. (I'm 25.) However, there ARE some YAL books that are just as "mature" as any other category - I just have to be discerning.


I love Becky because she is such a real person; Her children can't find their shoes, her house is not in perfect condition, she has a cat, her family has traditions, and she is in love with her husband yet has a crush on an actor. She seems so genuine and always stays true to her character, even to the very end when the story ended in a way some readers disliked, but was true to Becky.

Furthermore, my parents have an apple tree and every year we bottle an abundant amount of jars of apple pie filling, so making pies every week is in fact quite possible!


I loved Becky a lot, but my favorite character in that story was her sweet husband. Oh how I cried. As far as the rest of your characters go, I feel like I can relate to the younger ones because they make me nostalgic (even if they're more adult than I ever ones). Every stage of life I've been in, am in, or will be in in some way, so it's easy to relate. Your characters are all very unique and all very human, so there's something to click with all of them.


I properly lolled at how Becky could be a "controversial" character because taken at face value she's just so conventional. But you're right, when you put it like that!

I agree with you and Delia, when growing up, I wouldn't read anything with a narrator younger than me. Heck, I usually didn't read anything with a narrator the same age as me. It was always at least two years older. I'm nineteen now, so any YA I read these days is usually with younger MCs, but never younger than sixteen. But by my own logic I've been reading MCs that age since I was around fourteen...

if I read any adult fiction... I'm not going to lie, I DO find it harder to relate to anyone over thirty. I'll happily read a book with a protagonist in their late twenties, maybe early thirties, but older than that and it does get hard for me. Because it almost feels like I SHOULDN'T be reading their stories, not yet, because I'm no where near where they are in their lives. I read A+H and loved it (mainly because of the humour), and I related to Becky on some levels- the celebrity crush, for example- but not on others. I'm not anywhere close to being married with kids and while I hope to be there one day, A+H is in a very small minority of books I've read featuring such MCs. If I read adult fic, it's most likely going to feature young professionals, because once I finish college (four years to go!) that's what I'll be. And you're right. I like looking ahead to the next stage in my life, but not any further than that.

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That sounds exactly right.

I am so flattered to get a reply, thank you!

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