Sunday, May 29, 2011

When Elvis Pops Into the Market

An Elvis impersonator works nights at Maynard’s Market.

He was one of those people who popped into Sammy Keyes’ world several books ago. I wasn’t expecting him, but suddenly there he was behind the counter. Often characters like this get deleted, but this one made me laugh, so I kept him.

After all, laughter is king.

At least in my book.

(Stop me already!)

Anyway, the thing with characters in a series is that you can’t have all of them in every book. And after fourteen books, Sammy’s dealt with a lot of people. So it’s inevitable that a character will appear in one book, and then never be seen again. Especially if they’ve had a fatal mishap. Like, say, being scared to death by a girl sneaking up the fire escape of a seniors building. Or croaking from a highball of bitterness and old age. Or being clonked on the head by a can of refried beans.

Oh, wait. I killed that guy off (in Snake Eyes) but then I changed my mind. Which was a tough decision because I really enjoyed clonking him on the head with a can of refried beans and I didn’t like him and I wanted very much for him to stay dead.

I remember exactly where I was when I killed him off: Chugging through New Jersey on the Amtrak while on book tour. I remember because there was a guy sitting next to me who, when he found out I was an author, kept trying to talk to me. But I was in the middle of hurling around cans of beans and, really, you don’t interrupt a writer when they’re in the midst of hurling around beans!

It can get messy.

When I just couldn’t take his interruptions anymore, I very politely said, I’m sorry, but I really need to concentrate.

Actually, in deference to the truth, it was more a high-pitched, Can’t you see I’m trying to kill someone off?

Whatever. At that point I became a weirdo and he escaped to another seat leaving Sammy free to hurl the can and kill the creep (the one in the book).

I must have been in one of those moods, because I thought killing a creep with a can of beans was the funniest thing ever. It tickled my funny bone for days. Maybe even weeks. But somewhere along the storyline I realized that killing the guy—with or without beans—wasn’t furthering the plot; that it was actually making it messy and complicated.

After all, there are consequences to killing someone, with or without a can of beans.

Anyway, the point is, (hm, let me check, what was the point?)… Oh, yeah! Some people appear in one book in a series and never show their bean-bonked face again. If they’re dead, there’s no bringing them back. (Not if you’re going to be fair to your readers—I hate books that do that ta-da thing where, ooooh, they weren’t really dead. Totally unfair. Cheater. Go write for a soap why don’t you?)

So if they’re dead, they’re dead and there’s no bringing them back. But usually characters make it through alive (and, presumably, remain alive in subsequent titles) only they can’t all be seen again because it’s just too much to carry along.

But then there are the characters that appear when you didn’t expect them (or invite them) and rather than fade away, they pop back in from time to time, going, Remember me?

And you go, Yeah, I remember you. What are you doing back here?

And then they start talking in Elvis songs.

And you go, Oh, that’s right. You work the night shift at Maynard’s and everything you say is (pretty much) the title of a song Elvis Presley sang.

I like you!

You crack me up!

And before you know it the Elvis impersonator has you doing things like researching Elvis, which, having parents from The Netherlands, was not someone played or embraced while you were growing up, and, in fact, was not someone whose songs you really know.

And you spend days learning about Elvis and his songs and soon the Elvis impersonator at Maynard’s Market has a huge vocabulary (of song titles, and song titles only) and he is totally making you bust up with the things he says. And after a long day of writing you discover that in two pages you managed to have your Elvis say the cleverest, funniest things and use dozens of titles.

And then you realize that Elvis didn’t pop in and say, “Hey, little mama,” just to make you laugh.

He’s there for a reason!

Which won’t show itself to anyone but you until the next book, but YOU know!

So you smile extra hard at your two pages and dozens of song titles and feel happy and clever and elevated from the darker things in life.

All because Elvis popped into the market.


Ryan said...

...but you're right, there's something funny about killing someone with a can of refried beans. *nodding* =)

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

I couldn't stop laughing when you killed the guy with the can of beans,I think i almost cried.Anyway,I'm related to Elvis!It's really cool,my friend's grandmother(or great i don't remember) sang with him!Isn't that too cool?!I'm also related to Abraham Lincoln...Anyway,great post and when do you think we'll get and excerpt for the Sammy book?If you give one,that is.Happy Memorial Day!


Elizabeth said...

Which book will those two hilarious sounding pages be in? :D

Alexa said...

So the Elvis Impersonator guy is going to be back?????

Hunger Games Lover said...

i am literally rolling on the ground (well, actually my bed ) laughing...

Beach said...

This post was so funny! For some reason I could picture the scene on the train so clearly. If you can't use all the Elvis jokes, please share them on your blog -- no sense letting the funny go unshared!

I feel like I need to reread the Sammy Keyes books again, because I don't remember the bean-beaning, and I can't remember the name of the lady who died from "a highball of bitterness and old age" (it was the snoopy neighbor, Mrs. Gray-something? oh, and that was a great turn of phrase). I'm glad Sammy didn't kill anyone (though I did worry about that baseball bat-bashing with Holly -- was that guy okay?), because that's a lot to deal with, and she was distraught enough over the bird.

Oh, and my library had the Running Dream, so I'm second on the waiting list for it. I can't wait to read it! (Though in some ways I'm dreading it, since I've not been able to run competitively since high school due to injuries.)

Michael said...

As a person who despises beans, I find death by beans to be (hilariously) frightening. Thanks for plotting out purposeful encounters...

BP said...

OH WOW. Words cannot express how refreshing it is to find out that there are other people out there who get severely annoyed with those who try to chat while you are in the middle of a fantasy universe. And an ENJOYABLE part of the story, too! :D AHG! Drives me up the wall....Thanks for sharing! :D