Welcome to the second of several posts detailing the inspiration behind some of the characters in my books.
Like Nellie Tryke, Lavinia Welch is a character that I created for my Traveling Society series. Unlike Nellie, her original name was not retained in the new stories. Her original name was Lavinia Sharp. I can’t even remember why I changed her name to Welch instead, perhaps because I thought it sounded better. Actually I remember now. It was supposed to be a reference to her British Isles roots.
When I thought of Lavinia’s appearance, I pictured someone like this: long brown hair, blue eyes, freckles. I’ve always thought that brown hair and blue eyes was an intriguing combination, perhaps because one of my favorite singers, Nolwenn Leroy, happens to be a brunette with light blue eyes. So I thought it would be great to use that for this character.
Of all the Traveling Society characters, Lavinia is the most like me, at least, personality-wise. I knew that I wanted one of the girls to be musically inclined. When I decided that Lavinia’s interest was going to be in music, I decided why not make her a singer. Singing is one of my life’s passions, so it would give me something to write about which I knew well.
Little did I know that Lavinia would develop into the sixteen-year-old version of me.
At her age, I loved music more than anything else. While other kids played sports, I sang in the school choir. Like Lavinia, I also listened to my favorite music all the time, though my favorite music was not contemporary! Lavinia enjoys country music, which is not something I like but which I wanted to explore a little more of in her character. Like me, Lavinia also loves to sing and is known among her friends for constantly humming and trilling when she thinks no one is listening. She even takes private voice lessons. When I was Lavinia’s age, I took voice lessons for several years, so I’m very familiar with singing and what it’s like to sing Italian songs, like the kind of songs that Lavinia has to sing for her teacher.
Her experiences in singing and gaining confidence mirror my own. In Bienvenue, Lavinia has a confidence crisis when she hears another girl her age singing with a voice well beyond her years. Angela Brennan, the young girl with the mature voice, is an amalgamation of several girls I knew when I was in choir as a teenager. Sara was a senior when I was a sophomore and she sang Tell Me On A Sunday as if she were the woman living those lyrics. Another girl I knew like Angela was named Katherine. She sang with such confidence and maturity and oh was I jealous of her. Anytime she sang, people stood up and cheered. If she’s not on Broadway right now, I’d be very surprised.
Like Lavinia, I became just as intimidated after hearing them sing. At that age, I was very fragile and the littlest thing would set me off. That’s how Lavinia is. To help with her character, I drew on my own experiences of hearing Sara and Katherine singing and my own feelings of inadequacy.
Of course, that’s not all there is to Lavinia. Like me at that age, Lavinia is shy and not assertive, the perfect foil to someone like Nellie who expresses herself without much of a thought as to how it will be received. However, she is also kind and reserved. Perhaps her biggest flaw is that she always wishes that she were someone else instead of being happy with who she is. How I can relate to that. Lavinia also loves any and all things French, which is another one of my passions. Her fluency in French serves her well during her trip to France with Nellie and Patty in Bienvenue. Lavinia is the only one who speaks French, so she is able to use her abilities to help the group.
Though much of Lavinia is like me at her age, there are some differences. Her background was directly taken from my Travel Club stories. The oldest of two girls, has divorced parents, and is from Britain. I remember making Lavinia of British origin because I was, and still am, a bit of an anglophile. Many of my favorite music artists are from Britain. Keane. Kate Bush. Pet Shop Boys. The Fixx. To name a few! Also, when I wrote the Travel Club stories, my favorite books were all from British authors. Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights. A Little Princess. So I chose Britain because it was a place I was fascinated with and wanted to visit.
And who knows, maybe I’ll be getting to travel to Britain through Lavinia in a future story!
Tune in next time when I’ll be talking about another Traveling Society character: Patty Monaghan.