I've always said that my mother would brag about me if I were in prison. She'd make bumper stickers that read: My daughter's rap sheet is longer than your daughter's rap sheet!
When my first novel came out (GIRL TALK, under Julianna Baggott), my mother kept telling everyone she met that the mother character in the novel was based on her.
I told her that she might not want to do that. "People will be confused. They'll wonder if Dad really served in Nam and is a gynecologist in addition to practicing law. They'll think he had an affair with a redheaded bank-teller." None of these things worried her. Finally I said, "They'll think you're from Bayonne, New Jersey."
She changed her tune and started saying, "Julianna based the mother character's spirtedness on my spiritedness." That kind of thing.
Then, of course, some of her friends had negative things to say. It's inevitable. This threw my mother into fits. Until one day she was cleaning out a closet and found an old National Geographic with a lead story on William Faulkner. It turns out that, when attacked by locals who were angry about a certain kind of negative portrayal, Faulkner's mother would respond, "My son writes what he has to write." My mother adapted and adopted this line in reference to me, and formed a deep kinship with Faulkner's mother -- basically, relating to her as one creator-of-a-genius does to a fellow creator-of-a-genius. (I can't state quite loudly enough that these are MY MOTHER'S IMPRESSIONS. NOT MINE. I bow way down at the mere mention of Faulkner.)
But the creme de la creme moment, came this past week. My mother was walking around her vacation-home trailer park in the Berkshires, with postcards made out for some of her friends, a mini press release all about my new book, MY HUSBAND'S SWEETHEARTS (under my pen name Bridget Asher).
She ran into a family she didn't know, started talking about kids and camping and politics, and after fifteen minutes of idle chatter, the woman introduced herself.
"I'm Susan Faulkner, as in Faulkner, the writer."
My mother smiled, put her hand over her heart and said, "I'm Glenda Baggott, as in Baggott, the writer."
This comeback was so quick, so instinctive, that one can only assume it comes from a deep place inside of my mother. And it surely does.
She, of course, handed the woman a postcard about my latest book, and then, too much to do to linger for long, she moved swiftly on ... postcards in hand.