Of Cameos and Courtesies
As most of you know, writers will occasionally use the name of a real person in their books and gives them lines to say and scenes to play. These are known in the business as cameos and I do it all the time. I've donated many cameos to charity auctions and I'm proud to say they have raised several thousand dollars over the years.
Sometimes though, it's simply to surprise a friend.
In Winter's Child, for instance, I gave the name of a friend's daughter to a nurse. The daughter happens to be a real nurse. My friend said she was reading it in bed late one night and when she came to her daughter's name, she let out such a shriek of delight that she woke her poor husband. And then she got up, found her phone and woke her daughter. Her reaction was everything I'd hoped it would be.
Too often though, if it's the name of a mystery friend, I don't get to surprise that friend because someone will read a review copy the minute it's available and immediately email congratulations to the person I'd mentioned, not realizing that they've licked a little red off the candy. The "cameo" misses that moment of surprise.
In Designated Daughters, my current book, I stuck in the names of four such friends. Two were told before they read it, one got to be surprised, the fourth hasn't yet read the book and no one's yet told her.
So please, if you read a new book and recognize the name of a mutual friend, do them a favor and don't tell. You're allowed one innocent question: "Have you read such-and-such a book yet? I think you'd enjoy it." Then sit back and wait for them to tell you, okay?
And of course, you'd never, never go to an author reading and commit the cardinal sin of asking a spoiler question, right?
One of my friends went to hear a non-mystery author who had written a best seller. The room was jammed with readers who'd just bought the 400-page book. The author had talked in generalities and read a passage that made everyone so concerned for the main character that they couldn't wait to go home and read it. And then the first question from the audience was "Did you know from the beginning that you were going to let him get killed at the end?"
Talk about letting the air out of everyone's balloon!
It's fun to be in the know, to know things others don't know, but please hold it in. Later you can say, "I was dying to tell you, but I didn't want to spoil it."
They will thank you for it.
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