When author K.M. Weiland interviews her characters, she asks them a wide variety of questions including the name of their favorite book. As I started doing this for my main character, Clem, my first thought was that she wouldn’t have a favorite book. She is definitely working class and poor. She doesn’t have much time for things like books.
Then I started to wonder if I was taking the easy way out. My grandfather graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering just as many of the mines in the US were playing out. Because of this, he took any job he could find. Sometimes he was head mining engineer for the mercury mines in Terlingua, Texas. Other times he ran a filling station. My grandmother used chicken feed sacks to make clothing. Pretty sacks became dresses for the girls. Ugly sacks were destined to be underwear. They were definitely working class and poor but they had books.
So what kind of books would kids on a mining planet have access to? Especially working class kids? What would there be and what would they want?
Fortunately, I collect old books, snatching them up whenever I see them at a yard sale, rummage sale or book sale. I was able to base these two books on actual texts in my collection. One is my character’s favorite book because her older brother read it to her. The other is the kind of book her step father wants her to read. It should be pretty obvious which is which.
I’m not going to be able to put this much effort into every crumb of material culture but having put the effort into creating these “books,” even if I really only made the covers, I feel like I know my characters a bit better.
I better hustle though so that I’ll be ready to start working on the novel in two weeks. Fingers crossed!