In the original draft of my new novel, What’s Left, her aunt Yin is a quiet, reserved character who remains largely in the background. Yes, she’s a certified public accountant and the mother of Cassia’s best friend forever, but she doesn’t venture far beyond that.

I have no idea what made me think of her as Japanese-American, other than a possible Buddhist connection – as it turns out, I’d say her faith is nominal. I do remember an incident in a Boston art museum where one visitor instinctively bowed in front of a statue of Buddha, which inspires the way Yin meets Cassia’s uncle Tito in my story. She’s dutifully impressed by his gesture.

But then I met someone who totally changed the way I envisioned Yin. She had some commonalities with Cassia’s aunt, including a career in big numbers. But she was brilliant, talented, and way-off-the-wall opinionated. Voila!

What a perfect foil for straight-laced Tito, even before I added her love of hard rock music or her taking over management of the events at the old church the family bought on a whim.

And then, in the ninth revision of my novel, she takes teenage Cassia under her wing as her assistant running the live shows.


My, how I’d welcome the return to my circle of the woman who changed Yin for me! She was such a breath of fresh air.

Have you ever met somebody who turned out to be quite different from everything you’d been led to expect? Care to spill the beans as to why?


Orthodox icon of St. Joachim of Ithaca hand-painted by monks at the Monastery of Osios Nikodemos at Pentalofos, Kilkis, Greece. (Via Wikimedia Commons.)

Cassia’s roots included inspiration like this.

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