Back in 2007, I had been challenged by other writers to create a protagonist who wasn’t Barbie doll perfect. So I came up with The Persephone Cole Vintage Mystery Series. It takes place in 1942 Manhattan during the beginning of the country’s entrance into WWII. The stories revolve around one of the country’s first female detectives, a full-figured gal named Persephone (Percy) Cole. She is 5’11”, strong, able, and very secure living in a man’s world. At 35 years old, which was considered middle-aged for the times, she has a mouth on her, wears Marlene Dietrich pants suits, altered for her size, and her father’s fedora hat. She is also a single mother who moves back into her parents 4th floor walk-up on the lower east side, as much for her 8-year old son’s sake as that of her parents.
From the git-go I loved Percy. I had accidentally created my ideal protagonist, a woman who could go anywhere a man could go, do anything a man could do, and was smarter and sassier about it. I was surprised when the books didn’t leap off the shelves after publication. Or at least climb off. I thought for sure women would love to read about a woman who found her place in the sun, even with everything stacked against her, and did it with humor and guile. Didn’t happen. Meanwhile, the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries continued in their popularity, this sparkly, contemporary series about a Silicon Valley detective agency led by protagonist Lee Alvarez, who is, frankly gorgeous on every level. Make no mistake, I am forever grateful for that. But still.
I had a pang in my heart for my beloved Percy, her son, Oliver, Mother, Pop, and their 1940’s world. However, after the 3rd book of the series didn’t sell any more copies than the first two, I decided to stop writing them and move on. But still the pang lingered. The Alvarez Family grew in popularity, Percy Cole continued to languish.
But I see the world has changed. And a woman’s place in it. Women like being physically strong now. They like knowing they can defend themselves and not depend on a big strong man to do it for them. They appreciate – we appreciate – self-sufficiency. So I have decided to pull Percy out, dust her off, and see if this pistachio nut eating heroine will go. I am currently writing the 4th book of the series.
Wish me luck.