He doesn't know it, but he ended up dying after a 57-car accident in Learning to Fly. Oh, and I made him a drug dealer. His ill-gotten money got the whole book rolling.
A real person also made an appearance in Learning to Fly. Don Cannon is a huge mystery fan. He has gone to probably every mystery writer's first signing in LA, sometimes being one of only a couple of people in attendance. As a result, he might have lunch with Mike Connelly, or other famous authors who remember him almost as well as he remembers them. He shows up in a lot of author's books as a kind of thank you. I did the same for Don after he told me exactly where I should sign in Los Angeles, and even called ahead to several bookstores. At the time, I didn't even know who he was. I asked him if he would like to be in my next book, and if so, would he like to be a good guy or a bad guy. He said bad guys were more interesting. I don't know if it was because he shared a name with the good Don Cannon, but my bad Don Cannon turned out to not be such a bad guy after all, which wasn't at all what I had intended.
In Heart-Shaped Box, I killed off a certain head cheerleader from Medford High School.
In Square in the Face, my editor wrote on the side of my first draft, "Pump up the mystery!" When queried, she explained that I should do that by killing off someone. So I had the killer murder a poor woman I had never intended to die in the first place.
Sometimes I feel bad about totally imaginary people I have killed. Like I remember one time I killed off a single father. How would his nine-year-old daughter go on without him? I actually felt guilty about it. I found myself wondering if she had any relatives who could take her in.
In Buried Diamonds I made the mistake of letting one woman name a character. She had won the right at auction. My caveat is always that you must be aware that the character could be anything, including dead. She didn't listen. She wanted the character to be named after her daughter. In fact, she wanted the character to be her daughter. To look just like her. Now I didn't feel right killing a 12 year old or making her the killer, so she had to become someone's neighbor. And I had to give her a reason for being. Around that time, the woman implored me to add at least one of their dogs. So I gave in. I had the dog get strychnine poisoning. Then I felt guilty. The dog would die. I ended up calling the animal hospital and figuring out how to save the imaginary dog.
The mom's comment? Why had I made the dog, which was named Bear, a male? Their dog was a female.
I pressed my lips together and did not comment.