Holly Kerr talks about how she indulged her superhero fantasy.
I really think I’d like to be a superhero.
Or maybe a secret agent. Nothing too dangerous of course. I am a forty-something other and I like to think my kids still need me around! But have you ever wondered … wanted … fantasized a bit about having a little more excitement in your life? A little danger? Have you thought about what it would be like to jump out of a plane onto the roof of a building, sneak in, have to fight your way through the bad guys with such awesome moves that you manage this with your hair still in place and not a bruise on your body to rescue your man or someone equally deserving?
I have to admit, I have had such daydreams.
And that’s why I wrote The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd.
I’m not a violent person in any means. I’m an average, baseball mom of three. I’m an author. And one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a writer is that you get to imagine your characters (yourself!) in all sorts of situations.
I first came up with the idea for The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd years ago. I had finished writing my first novel (then titled Baby! Baby? Baby?!, now Unexpecting), a chick lit novel about a woman who wants to have a baby, and was debating what my next book would be. At this time, I had been quite taken with the Jennifer Garner show Alias. Watching the show – along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another of my favourites – really strengthened my little secret agent/super hero fantasy. I loved the idea of a strong, confident, independent woman being able to take control of any situation.
There were a few moments in those two television shows that inspired The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd. Sydney Bristow sucking the air from a submerged car tire keep from drowning. A car doing a 360 turn during a car chase. And Buffy’s signature fight move – rolling back onto the shoulders and flipping to her feet. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do things like that?
And that’s when I came up with the character of Charlotte Dodd. She was part Sydney Bristow, part Buffy with a little Jason Bourne thrown in.
She would be an agent with a super-secret government organization. She was recruited at a very young age and from a family of spies. Her grandfather was the co-creator of the National Intelligence and Information Agency, a super secret government organization that catapulted Canada to the forefront of worldwide espionage. (I know, I know – Canada? Fiction, remember?!)
I came up with other characters – Charlotte’s brothers and their roles in the NIIA, fellow agents Benjy and Payton. I came up with a bit of a love triangle with Ham and Luke. I devised the fight scene where she first meets Benjy, who reminded Charlotte of Neil Patrick Harris. You can tell how long ago I first came up with the story because the early reversions mention Neil Patrick Harris’ childhood character, Doogie Howser!
And that’s where the story stalled. But never forgotten, never far from my thoughts. I had all these characters – I had Charlotte – and they needed something to do.
Over the years, Charlotte has stayed with me but the story has gone through a lot of changes. I wrote at least five versions of Charlotte, trunking each one. Charlotte lost her memory, got it back. One memorable version had Charlotte as part vampire, which made her an excellent vampire hunter!
And then last year, after my third book was published – Absinthe Doesn’t Make the Heart Grow Fonder – I pulled Charlotte out again. I had found critique partners and I needed to give them something to critique! This time, Charlotte was still a spy but had no memory of her time as a secret agent. I took few parts of my original story and started again.
I think this is the best revision of Charlotte I could have come up with. She’s a character that I fell in love with, one who wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s been over ten years since I first came up with the idea of Charlotte and so finally publishing the story was a very happy moment. It was great to finally finish what I started so long ago, and let my daydreams of the life of a secret agent run wild!
But Charlotte wasn’t enough for me. I’m ready for my next mission. I’m working on a sequel!
Charlotte Dodd is a spy. Only she doesn’t know it.
After taking an experimental drug to erase her memories of saving the world (or at least the country – several times) Charlotte is given a new life – a quiet, unassuming job, a second chance at love with Luke, and no one trying to kill her.
Two years later, and with no recollection of saving the world, she steps in to help a random stranger and is amazed at the ease in which she dispatches her opponents using a rolled-up magazine. But how is this possible? She has Buffy-like fight moves, fires a gun with excellent aim and can use the air from car tires to keep breathing underwater.
When she meets Ham – why does he seem so familiar? The flashes, the déjà vu, the dreams … they’re not really dreams? Blowing up a building in Mexico, being buried alive – those things really happened to her? And what is her brother doing flying a plane? Turns out those two years of quiet with Luke was really an undercover mission to help bring down a secret organization targeting her family.
Charlotte needs to remember her secret life if she wants to save the world again and the only man she’s ever loved.
Holly Kerr writes contemporary chicklit. When she’s not writing, Holly spends time with her kids, watching Star Wars and super hero movies and training for this marathon she signed up for.