How much does it cost to achieve literary immortality? In the case of Rebeca Eckler, a Canadian journalist and writer, about $7,000. Two years ago, Eckler paid that princely sum at a charity auction to have her name used as a character in the next novel by her favorite author, fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood. Now, that book is out: Atwood’s delightful and well-reviewed dystopian novel The Year of the Flood. And Eckler is surprised, pleasantly for the most part, at her fictional alter ego. “One of my character’s first quotes is, ‘Praise the Lord and spit. I’m too black and ugly for him…’ There you have it. Rebecca Eckler is no longer skinny, neurotic and Jewish,” the real Eckler writes in the Canadian newsmagazine Macleans. Eckler notes she’s not the first person to win a spot in literature via auction — in recent years, writers as various as Frederick Forsyth, Stephen King, Michael Chabon, and Nora Roberts have all auctioned off character-naming rights. She’s not even the first to win a spot in an Atwood novel (a previous winner, Amanda Payne, even got a two-for-one deal by appearing in the 2003 novel Oryx and Crake and then reappearing in this year’s follow-up, The Year of the Flood).
I consider myself a bookworm, but I’m not sure I’d want to be immortalized in a book by my favorite author — especially since I’d have no way of knowing if I’d turn out to be a major character or a minor one, a sinner or a saint. (Yes, I clearly have some control issues.) But what about you? Would you pay to become a character in a novel? And what writer’s fictional world would you want to enter, even if it’s in name only?