I started waking up at 2:30 a.m. Was wide awake by 3:30 a.m. Finally gave up and decided to be productive. Yeah, I’ve got a few things weighing heavily on my mind, but I had some incredible breakthroughs.
One thing that’s always bothered me about Mama Connagher in Letters to an English Professor: I didn’t have a clear picture of her in my mind. I’ve mentioned doing casting calls before, and if you’ve been reading here long, you know that Conn was always inspired by Clive Owen. In fact, my writing laptop’s desktop is still an image of him from Shoot ‘Em Up. It’s totally the badass Conn, the one revealed when his careful professor veneer peels back, the one that Rae fears–and desires.
Miss Belle and Colonel Healy were always played by Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in my mind.
Victor, Conn’s older brother, would be perfectly cast as Adrian Paul.
Vicky, I’m not sure yet, but I’ve got a little time to figure her out.
Who, though, was Mama Connagher?
I didn’t know. I also wasn’t sure about her husband. While he’s been dead quite some time, I needed to be able to SEE them together in my mind. I needed to build a history for them beyond the hints that MIss Belle dropped in Letters, and I couldn’t, because I couldn’t see them. WHO was she?
For Mr. Connagher (and you know what, I don’t think I ever decided on his name–I need to fix that), I’d been leaning toward Sean Connery. Or maybe Sam Elliott, because it was his movie Conagher that inspired the family name. I could totally see him as a hard-bitten Texan rancher who could sire the kind of men that Conn and Victor turned out to be (although, to be honest, their mother’s steely core of strength played just as big a role).
Mama remained blurred and indistinct. I need her. I believe she’ll be on page in Victor’s story, and I’d like to weave the family threads together tightly across all three books that I know about. To do it, I need to KNOW her.
Lying awake around 4 a.m., I finally saw her. I can’t find the exact image online (without searching longer than I care to right now) but I don’t need it. It’s etched in my mind. Remember in Gone with the Wind, near the beginning, when Scarlett is dressing for the picnic at Twelve Oaks? She refuses to eat and marches toward the door. Mammy makes a comment about Ashley Wilkes and how a lady can’t go eating like a pig. Certainly Melanie would never do that, right?
Scarlett turns her head and gives THE LOOK to Mammy.
That, my friends, is Virginia Connagher to a T…or rather a “V”.