My Secret Confession about The Trouble with Nightingale – Amaleen Ison
I’m often asked if the characters I write are based on people I know. Most of the time, I smile and dismiss the idea with a shake of my head. Sometimes, I laugh at allegations of similarities between characters and close friends. And on the odd occasion, I voice the spiel that a writer never EVER replicates family or friends in stories. But today, I’m going to come clean and tell the truth.
In my story about Hell’s gate, The Trouble with Nightingale, I broke a cardinal rule of writing. I based not one, but two characters on close family members. Worse still, the stolen personalities don’t feature as bit part players. Oh, no. They are pivotal characters, and one of them is rather nasty.
Am I in trouble for admitting my indiscretion? Um…no.
Let me introduce you to Winston the family cat.
Cute, huh? Yes, but also terribly smart and manipulative. In fact, I sometimes wonder if he’s really a cat. Winston is so sneaky and intelligent, he might be the devil in disguise. His wicked personality lends itself perfectly to demonic characterisation.
To include Winston in The Trouble with Nightingale, I turned him into a Chihuahua. I’m not sure my moggy will ever forgive me for changing him into another species, especially a dog, but he’s vain enough to enjoy being immortalised in print.
Excerpt: The Chihuahua (Winston) yapped and dived at Millie’s feet. She scurried backwards, but he stalked forward, hair bristling across his withers. Despite his size, he exuded the confidence of a Rottweiler, sharp yellow teeth bared and eyes fixed on her with a terrifying intensity.
Next up is Thelma the guinea pig.
If you’ve not kept a guinea pig before, you may wonder if they even have personalities to write about. Well, let me tell you that this sassy pig has bags of character. She’s inquisitive and funny, and when she smells food her squeaks are more persistent than an alarm without an off switch. I used to imagine what Thelma would say if she could talk, and one day she spoke to me (in my imagination, of course). Poor Thelma underwent a sex change to become the magical furry creature that features in The Trouble with Nightingale. Will she forgive me? Absolutely. She’s a happy-go-lucky kinda gal.
Excerpt: (The guinea pig) wiggled and kicked his back legs out behind him. He scampered a circle, claws scrabbling against the slippery surface. His backside jiggled and when he raised his head to look at Millie, his bottom lip sagged in the most endearing way. In spite of her rage, Millie couldn’t help but giggle.
Now you’ve met the real life pets who inspired the two animal characters, I’d like to share an excerpt that introduces the two humans, Millie Scrubbings and Mrs. Cruickshank. But even if you put me in a headlock and noogie my skull, I won’t ever admit who those characters are based on, EVER!
Excerpt: Millie prodded the lift’s grimy call button and glanced over her shoulder. Shadows thick with movement skulked beneath the concrete stairwell, darting away from each flicker of the orange security light above her head.
She leaned an ear toward the graffiti-scratched doors and listened for the rattle-clunk of the descending elevator. Like the rest of Nightingale Estate after dark, the mechanism remained eerily quiet.
She hitched the rucksack higher on her back and absently muttered a prayer of protection. Only last week, a guy about her age—seventeen--had been murdered on the fourth floor, his body scattered like a macabre crumb trail up the stairs to the tenth floor--Millie’s floor. The thought of walking where chunks of human flesh had lain curdled her stomach. Worse still, a killer lurked unchecked.
“Millie Scrubbing, what you doin’ hangin’ ’bout a broken lift?”
Millie whirled. Her neighbour, Mrs. Cruickshank, and her piddly Chihuahua, Winston, stood a few feet away.
“Mrs. C., you scared the crap outta me.” Millie clutched a hand to her chest.
The sixty-something skank with a too-tight pencil skirt, crooked beehive and five-inch stilettos sucked hard on a Marlboro. Smoke hung about her head like a grotty aura. Scarlet lipstick leaked into the creases around her lips, and canary-yellow eye shadow meandered past her squiggly-pencilled brows, giving the impression she’d applied it all without the use of a mirror.
“You shouldn’t be out after dark. Remember the police flier’s warnin’.” Mrs. Cruickshank pointed a gnarled finger at Millie and slurred her words. “Smart girl like you should know better. Anyone might creep up on you.”
The Trouble With Nightingale is available for purchase from Musa Publishing.