We not-yet-so-famous writers are often haunted by the demonic spawn of the stupidly-successful writers who had the audacity to publish something that became enormously successful that intruded on our own future path to fame. Not talking plagiarism or even idea stealing here, just what happens when someone uses an idea, a name, a character or whatever first.
I’m actually a huge fan of Stieg Larsson and the Girl trilogy (OK, the first one was better than the second two). But inadvertently his prized creation, Lisbeth Salander, has haunted my writing repeatedly.
My first run-in with Lisbeth was in my first attempt at a novel, Gho, which has been rather less well received that Herr Larsson’s works, and which currently resides in a virtual shoebox. My problem was that I had the ill fortune to have named a key character, a young valkyrie (she was once a vampire, but that’s a whole different story, thanks for nothing, Ms. Meyers), Lizbet. Despite my besting a native Swede at spelling, the zooming popularity of the Girl series forced me to rethink my Lizbet, who is now called Shale, short for Skeggjöld (an Old Norse name that hasn’t been popular since the 13th century). Shale is OK with her new moniker, and despite Gho’s lack of readership (seven by last count, not including my dog who occasionally naps on redlined pages), she lives on in my new WIP mythica novel, Ragnarök Willie, one of thirteen valkyries vying for that dang hammer.
So all is fine now with Shale, but I’ve tripped over Lisbeth again in another character, Cyn Buford, also in Ragnarök Willie. Cyn suffers no namesake issues, but when I ran a draft of the first few chapters past my critique group I got dinged nonetheless, for Cyn has the audacity of being a hacker in Sweden. “Channels Lisbeth too much, ugh.” Bear in mind that Cyn, while definitely a hacker and sometimes a resident of Sweden: a) is an American from Arkansas who trash-talks in an Ozark drawl; b) has no tattoos nor piercings anywhere; c) has, quite deliberately, a Rubenesque figure in contrast to Lisbeth’s boyish charms. But it would seem that Lisbeth somehow owns an exclusive license on fictional hackers in Sweden.
Honestly, I’m still not sure what I will do with poor Cyn, but I’m working on distancing her from Lisbeth’s ghost. For now I’ve banished Cyn to Australia, although she is still campaigning to return by chapter 20.
Of course it is slightly ironic that a writer who frequently writes about ghosts is haunted by one of his own. Oh well.