Friday, May 27, 2016

Character Inspiration

Hey, all! I didn't post last week because I was revving up for my two day long book release for Dead Beat Dates & Deities. I will be posting about that sometime this weekend, but first I was want to write my post for #LifeBooksWriting.

Character inspiration ... well, now ... a writer's mind is a messy thing. At least mine is. I think that, for me, each one of the four books I've published has started out with one, maybe two characters that have lived in my brain for a while. The rest of the characters are developed to fit around them.

My debut novel, The Color of Thunder, started with Faith Linsey. She's six years old when the story opens, and it progresses for more than thirty years. Faith is not me, but she's pieces of me. I was not alive in 1946, which is the time frame in which the story begins. I have never lived in Jackson, Mississippi, nor have I ever experienced any real, personal racial issues in my life. My father was not a Baptist minister, either. Far from it. I won't go into detail about him, (at least not in this post) but know he was much closer to hell than he ever was to heaven. While they did not have the same profession, my dad and Jacob do have a lot of similarities, and his character was based largely on the man I knew throughout my childhood. He was always right, no matter what, and he enforced his rules and way of thinking through verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse. As for Hope ... well, Hope is special to me ... but I'm not even sure that I can explain why. Perhaps she is the sister I always wish I had, (I'm an only child) and she has the spunk and tenacity I lacked while growing up.

The idea for Alabama Skye was sparked by my grandmother. I called her Mimi, and she inspired the character of Sarah, the matriarch of the Gannon family. Sarah was always at the center of this book for me. She is suffering from Alzheimer's, which is the disease that ultimately took Mimi's life, and much of the story is about Greer, the granddaughter who loves her dearly. (Perhaps there are some pieces of me in Greer, as well.) Cheney McGillivray, also a main character in the story, hails from the Isle of Skye. She was also inspired by Mimi ... or better stated, Mimi's love of Scotland. 

When I wrote Alabama Skye, it was meant to be a stand alone novel. When I published it, I had no plans to visit Kelby, Alabama or Portree on the Isle of Skye again. The book, however, received such a positive reaction, and I was asked many times when the Gannon family was coming back for a sequel. The interest in these characters excited me, and I began thinking about how I could continue the story.

I was happy to bring Greer back ... and even more excited about writing Cheney's character again. (She's one of my personal favorites.) But what I kept hearing about was that readers wanted to know more about Noah Wilson, Greer's lifelong best friend. I love Noah. Again ... she's a lot of things I'm not and wish I was. She was a lot of fun to write in A Skye Full of Stars, and because Cheney is such a colorful, wonderful character, (who doesn't like to write dialect?) I enjoyed coming up with a background for her. I did a lot of research for this book, most of it Scottish. That was Mimi again, and I learned a lot about a land she was so intrigued by.

That brings me to Dead Beat Dates & Deities. Wow. I'm still on an emotional high with this book. It went live exactly two weeks ago today, and the response I've gotten from it has blown me away. It is currently my baby, and I smile every time I think about it. This book has made me so unbelievably happy ... and yes, a lot of that has to do with the characters. Where the inspiration came from for this unseemly group, however, is more of a mystery to me than the rest. Maybe other authors do this ... I'd like to think that writers insert themselves into all of their work somehow ... or maybe they don't and I'm an oddball. It's probably the latter, but that right there ... that's Frances Reed, the main character in DBD&D. So, there you go ... there's a bit of me in her, too. She's successful and kind. She has a crazy family, but they love her and she loves them back. She's got a supportive best friend and a good job. She loves food ... all kinds of food, and coffee. She loves to take bubble baths and sleep in on Saturdays. I can relate to this character ... but she isn't me. As for Archer ... well ... you'll have to read the book to figure him out. There was definitely inspiration for his character. 

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes I can pinpoint exactly where certain characters come from. Other times, I have no idea. I'm just glad they show up at all ... and feel really lucky when they turn into people I come to love and enjoy.