As you might have guessed by now, an author has a relationship with all the most important characters in her stories. The main sort of relationship is Identification; that is, that the author considers, to some extent, that that character is her, herself! I certainly identify very strongly with some characters, and to a tiny extent with all my characters. (There are exceptions; for instance, a character created specifically as a minor villain would be too insignificant to identify with at all. If you've read Alexandra, you might remember Chairman Michael, who is mentioned, vilified, and never referenced again.)
In the case of the Helen stories, I identify with lots of them: Janet, most strongly; Old Elly, John Nordstrom, Amy, Maryssa, Lalitha, Sita, Norma Major, and various others.
You're probably thinking that this is crazy; how could I identify with both characters in a couple that is falling in love? The answer is a lot less kinky than you might expect. Each part of such a story is written from the point of view of one character or another (except for Yraid, of course, which is from Aggie's point of view the whole time). Suppose Character A is falling in love with Character B, and we're in a part written from the point of view of B. In this part, I think of B as myself; but I think of the other character, A, temporarily, as someone else; either someone I know, or a real, 3-D version of A. For the moment, I try and ignore that I'm hidden inside A, somewhere.
Actually, in Yraid, I'm Andy, as well. If you read carefully, you will see that Andy and Aggie kind of have similar personalities. (If that spoils it for you, I apologize! :( )
Some characters in my stories are drawn from people I know, or have known; I'm whispering in their ears how to think, what to do, what to say, so they're still a little bit me, but sometimes they don't listen, and they do something unexpected, and I'm surprised. (Don't ask; I don't understand it myself.)
Because of the way Yraid is written, of late I have found myself identifying mostly with Aggie (Agnes, in case you haven't read it yet). This story is my fantasy of falling in love with someone, without any of the complications that all of that usually brings with it in these modern times!
I ought to say something about these modern times. It is too easy to think of the present as some horrible situation, that may not ever go away. It is bad, but I am too interested in what is going to happen to bury myself in gloom. We've got out of terrible scrapes, as a nation, too often, to be defeated by any vicious political scheme. In fact, I think people the world over look to the US for ideas for getting out of bad tangles. We should show the way for Brazil and Venezuela, though we must absolutely not actually interfere directly. That's my view; but who am I? Nobody. Like Paula Poundstone, nobody listens to Kay.
In Yraid, I fear I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve a little too much. Luckily for me, Judy and Leslie are extracted from people whom I know and love, and the story is driven more by what they do, than what Aggie thinks and does. If I had written that story back in 1999, I think I would know myself better today, but some of the things that made it possible to write Yraid had not happened yet!
And now we come to the infamous, intriguing, omnipresent Helen.
In the beginning, Helen had no big faults, except for being in love with Janet rather immoderately. Then, as the story wrote itself, I realized that some characteristic property of Helen would have to be stretched, to make her a protagonist who was less "perfect", and more realistic. I chose that she fell in love with everybody. (Almost.)
Now, if a real person did that, we would consider her to have a very weak character indeed; we could not take them seriously. And that criticism remained with Helen; she began to see that she had become a caricature of herself. In my mind, this happened while she was in hiding (Helen On the Run). It does not really come up in the story—I can't remember exactly—but, starting with Westfield College, she begins to realize that this is a problem. And then, she gets hit with Evelyn (Rain) Woodford, and Lorna Shapiro simultaneously. From then on, Helen acts like someone embarrassed by her promiscuity, but she tries to minimize its visibility, and the toll it takes on her "SO"s. After her last, unsuccessful, pregnancy, she stops being sexually aggressive, and starts being more, well, passive. She has a second tumor removed, and all her aggression is gone, both sexually, and in terms of fighting, though being a large woman (not really; she's about 5'10", and 165 lbs, which is not really large), things proceed as we would expect, when she's making love.
I conceived of the character Helen initially as someone I would like as a romantic object. She was about 15 years old; that should tell you something about my character, though I hope it doesn't. But I took some time off from the Helen story, and wrote Alexandra, and Jane. When I came back to the Helen story, I began to identify more with Helen, and thought of her less as a romantic object. (Or sex object, if you must; but I cannot remember ever imagining making love to Helen. Take that any way you want.)
A number of characters are related to each other, in terms of where they come from: Hattie, in Beach; Genevieve in Alexandra; Judy in Yraid; Neela in Prisoner!; Deanna in Jane, to some extent, and the twins. Daisy in Galactic Voyager is unusual, I can't think of where she came from.
The teenage girls are all superficially similar: Ninel, in Alexandra; Heidi, in Jane; Erin in the Helen stories, and to a lesser extent, Gena; Lena in Voyager. But, as they grow older, their personalities diverge.
The strong, highly controlled characters also have a common origin: Janet, Heather, Sybilla, a little bit; Ellen Harper; to some extent, Megan Barrows, in Voyager.
In one sense, treating these characters en masse does them a disservice. On one hand, you do begin to see character details you might have missed. On the other hand, you begin to see them as a type, and miss the uniqueness that each of them acquires, simply because that uniqueness has been written into that story, and obviously because of the events to which they have been subjected. Our lives change us, as people have seen objectively when studying identical twins separated at birth. Even Helen and her clone, Athene, should be considered to have different personalities, but I might have failed to depict them that way.
In Yraid, by accident I put into Aggie's narrative how she began to empathize with characters in the books she reads. All of us, of course, do this, when—and if—we get into the habit of reading fiction for pleasure. Because Aggie has had so little opportunity to compare notes with friends in school (she was a loner in high school), all this appears to her as a unique state of affairs that she finds herself in. But, I realized that these words forced themselves out, because that's what happens to me! The more I read one of my stories, the more I'm haunted by the feelings of the characters! In Yraid, though, as soon as I open the book, it is as if I pop into Aggie's brain, and it is all happenning to me personally immediately! If I write more First Person stories, I suppose, the effect will fade; but right now, that happens like a wild ride.
P.S. Including free downloads, the total number of my books that have been taken has exceeded 9,000! So there are at least a thousand people who know who Kay Hemlock Brown is, and have gotten multiple books of mine, or perhaps 9,000 people, each of whom has got a single book. (I can't think which is the more plausible assumption...)