The first time I was on Garrett Miller's Rated G Radio show, someone called in and asked where I got the character of Benny Needles. She was certain there had to be a person in my life that I modeled Benny after.
For those of you who don't know Benny, he was meant to be a one-time client of Peri's - a needy little man with no filters on his brain, who was obsessed with Dean Martin. Readers loved him so much, he became part of the regular cast and has appeared in all the books. In the third book, THE HOT MESS, it was acknowledged that Benny has Asperger's.
My answer on the program was that I've known many Bennys in my life. Sometimes they are young children that I am teaching at the ranch. I've even met an adult Benny at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The man was obsessed with a particular movie studio from the 30s or 40s, and knew all of the films, actors, etc.
Part of me was fascinated by him. Part of me wanted him to move along so I could actually sell some books.
Over the past week, I've spent four days at Bouchercon in Long Beach, and three days at the California Special District Leadership Conference. This means:
1. For seven days, I have been meeting both friends and strangers and giving them "my best Gayle."
2. For seven days, I have heard more people talking than I normally hear in a month.
By the sixth day, I started to notice something: my ears were full. All the voices, all the words, began to blend into a cacophony with no meaning. By the seventh day, my ears were hypersensitive. The man next to me was sucking on a mint. I could hear the hard candy knock against his teeth. On the other side, the man behind me was actually eating his mints. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I wanted to stab both of them with my pen.
I started to think about my hearing. I've always had a problem with certain sounds. Music can get too loud, but there's one click on the volume that will send me to homicidal territory.
My darling husband likes to listen to ESPN Sports Radio while he drives. Or really any station that is broadcasting a game of some sort. These shows are always on AM radio, which has a distinctive timbre. It seems that the speaker on the passenger side is always louder than the driver's side, so I spend every car ride being assaulted by talking heads.
By the time we arrive, I leap from the car, feeling like my ears have just been scraped raw by an industrial rasp.
While I'm sharing, let's also talk about the worst sound ever: people eating. Crunching noises, slurpy noises, smacky noises, they all make me want to run screaming from the room (possibly to retrieve a weapon). There are times when I can't even stand to hear myself eat.
I try REALLY hard to not react to these sounds. They may be assaults to my ears, but only to MY ears. No one is trying to annoy me. Well, that they'll admit. But it's hard. I find my fingers drifting to my ears to stop the noise. I scoot my chair away. I run my finger across the tines of my fork and let my mind wander...
Today I realized something: I may have all my filters in place, but on the inside, I am Benny Needles. There's a reason he seems so real to my readers. I know him intimately.