Ask any fiction author. They’ll tell you characters have minds of their own. And believe me, I have experienced this phenomenon many times myself. There’ve been times when a character came out differently than planned, and always been for the better.
Other villains, however, had a certain quality about them. They’re more complex, more charismatic and, for lack of a better word, sexy. Jeremy Palmer in The Reunion was the first. Originally intended to be a rogue character who would do his dirty deed and disappear, Jeremy had that special charisma. He became a rival, competing with his father to win Gillian’s affections. Josh Ramsey in The Letter was a conman. Then the chemistry between him and Stephanie unexpectedly sizzled. So I revamped him into a mystery man.
I strive to make my villains as despicable as I can. There’s nothing more fun than a villain we love to hate getting their comeuppance. Some of my more dastardly villains include Scott Andrews in The Betrayal. Scott was a married guy presenting himself as a single guy to entice unsuspecting single women. Then there’s Beau Fowler, the corrupt detective in The Betrayal. He tried to frame an innocent woman for a crime she didn’t commit. And finally, there’s Craig Walker, the sociopathic villain in The Stalker. He’ll resort to kidnapping and murder to get what he wants.
Now it’s happening again. This time it’s Calvin Michaelson, in my upcoming novel, The Scandal. Cal’s a Hollywood mogul with a reputation as a playboy. Intended to be a despicable villain for readers to hate, his character became more dynamic than expected. He too is being revamped. He’ll still be a playboy, but at the end of the story a new and completely unexpected side to Cal will be revealed.
With only a few more chapters to write my next novel will soon be ready go to the editor. I am loving this story. It’s coming out much better than expected. It includes an amazing cast of characters, and it’s probably my most well researched book so far.
As my readers know, I put a lot of time and effort into making my storylines as realistic and believable as possible. And with this novel I’ve learned a lot about the television and movie industry. I also had to do some major revisions, but that’s okay. Each revision makes the story that much better. I also had to revamp my main antagonist.
As luck would have it, shorty after I decided to write a book about Hollywood, the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. Interesting timing, but I didn’t want to emulate it in my novel. I opted instead to have my lead antagonist be more of a Roman Polanski. However, it came out a bit too creepy for my taste. After several revisions it was still too creepy, and I simply didn’t like it. So, I had to go back create more of a Hugh Hefner inspired character, along with a Marina Martindale twist. This time, it worked. Perfectly. Of course, he’s not my only villain, and as I’m wrapping up some of my loose ends another antagonist is poised and ready to strike. And that’s all I have to say about that.
If all goes according to plan, The Scandal will be available this summer.
I get a lot of nice feedback about my characters and I love them too, but let’s not forget my other characters. The nonhuman ones.
I love animals and I grew up around dogs and horses. So, it stands to reason that some of my characters are dogs and horses. And while they may not be as cunning as their human counterparts, dogs and horses do what dogs and horses do, and sometimes it creates problems for the protagonists. In The Reunion, a black mustang named Miss Mollie puts Gillian in a real jam. Her dachshund, Duke, also becomes the catalyst in a major life changing event. However, these animal characters can do good deeds as well. Some even end up being the unsung heroes in the story. Lurch, the lovable mutt in The Betrayal, helps save Emily’s life, while Lucy, Shane’s dog in The Stalker, becomes attached to Rachel, much to Shane’s chagrin. My upcoming book, The Scandal, will also have a canine character. This time it’s an English springer spaniel named Barney, who belongs to leading man Chuck.
Those of us who have pets will tell you they really are part of the family, and my two real-life dogs are no exception. Of course, they wish I’d spend less time writing and more time with them. In fact, if it were up to them, I’d dote on them twenty-four/seven. But lucky for them, they have a nice big cozy dog bed right next to my writing desk. Now, if only I could get them to give me feedback on my writing. Unfortunately, about the only words they really seem understand are, “eat,” “food,” and “treats.”
People are genuinely curious about what I do. I often hear questions, such as are my books a series, and are my characters based on real people? Yes, some have been inspired from I’ve known. Protagonists Ian and Gillian in The Reunion are loosely based on real people.
So what do I mean when I say a character is inspired from a real person? Does it mean the character is a clone of that person, with a different name? The answer is no, they are not. They are based on my memories of people I’ve known. I use those memories as a template to create a unique and fictitious individual. Ian, for example, was based on an old college boyfriend. I incorporated some of his positive aspects into Ian, such as his desire to succeed. However, none of us are perfect, and my old boyfriend certainly had his faults too, but most of those characteristics were not part of Ian. Oddly enough, I’ve found some of his negative traits in antagonists in other stories, although I didn’t realize it until after the book was published. Funny how our minds work.
Whether inspired from a real-life person or not, each character I create is fictitious, and each is a unique individual in his or her own right. And I must be doing a good job. I’ve had some interesting feedback from my readers. Some truly hated my villians and were glad to see them get their comeuppance. Others shared their frustrations over protagonists making bad decisions. My all time favorite, however, came from a lady who told me she was reading one of my books in her apartment complex laundry room. One of the antagonists made her so mad she started cursing him out. Then she looked up and noticed other people were giving her strange looks. Her story was the highest compliment a reader could ever give me.
Sometimes I’ll have one idea in mind for a character, but as I get into the story, the character has other ideas. Such was the case with Jeremy Palmer in The Reunion, and it happened again with Josh Ramsey in The Letter.
Young and ambitious, Josh is a financial planner by day, an artist by night. His goal is to retire young and devote himself full-time to his art. Like Jeremy, Josh was meant to an antagonist, but as the character came to life he turned out to be quite charming. I soon realized he had the potential to go much farther than originally planned. That’s when I really started liking him. So I created an aura of mystery about him. Whose side is he really on? Is he friend or foe? He’s actually a little of both, and his true intentions are revealed in an ending that was also far different than what I’d originally planned. That’s what makes writing fun. Those characters, and storylines, that don’t come out as planned. They come out much, much better.
Now, just so you know, Josh is a purely fictitious character and was not inspired by anyone I’ve known in real life.
My next book, The Scandal, begins in Hollywood. I’m having a blast writing it. Hollywood a bizarre place indeed. There’s no other place like it in the world. (Thank goodness!) Things happen there that you could never, ever, get away with anywhere else. This means that as writer, the sky’s the limit. My characters are doing all kinds of crazy stuff. No wonder I’m having so much fun writing this one.
The inspiration for this story goes back many years to when I was a young, budding artist. One of my cousins played on a soap opera. She was kind enough to allow me to draw the cover art for her fan club newsletter, and, when she left the show, she invited me to her wrap party.
Now, here’s something I bet you don’t know. Hollywood wrap parties are just like any other corporate employee party. The only difference is the faces are more recognizable. However, in my story, my character’s wrap party will be anything but boring.
I’ve created a lead character who’s very different from my cousin. She’s completely fictitious. And the title implies, she’ll be unwittingly caught up in a major Hollywood scandal. The rest of the story will focus on her struggle to reinvent herself and she’ll move on to a whole new chapter in her life. So stay tuned.
Unlike most of my antagonists, Martha isn’t an evil person. She’s extremely annoying. The kind of person who gets under your skin like a bad rash.
Martha briefly dated leading man Danny. He told her upfront there would be no strings attached. Lonely and vulnerable, Martha ignored Danny’s conditions and latched onto him, believing that he was the man she was destined to spend her life with. Danny soon met Stephanie and ended his relationship with Martha. But even without Stephanie, Danny had already decided to move on.
Martha’s reaction to their breakup wasn’t what Danny expected. Believing that Danny simply needs a timeout, she fully supports him dating other women. In her mind, dating other women will prove to him, once and for all, that she’s the only woman for him, and she’s willing to wait for as long as it takes. In the meantime, she’ll stay in touch.
She begins with emails and text messages, but when a family member openly disapproves, she switches tactics. Handwritten love letters would eliminate an electronic paper trail. She also thinks handwritten letters are more romantic. Danny never responds to any of her messages. However, he’s keeping all of her letters in a file to build a case against her. This will, unfortunately, have serious unintended consequences for him.
Unlike like Craig Walker, Martha hasn’t set out to intentionally cause any harm. A desperately lonely woman, she’s afraid of being on her own, and unable to accept the fact that Danny isn’t love with her.
We have a saying in the writing business that goes, You can’t make this stuff up. Martha is loosely based on a woman who dated a friend’s husband before he married my friend. The old girlfriend kept writing him love letters thinking he’d come back to her someday. Of course, he never did.
It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for me. One of my cousins, and one of my all time favorite people, passed away rather suddenly and unexpectedly.
A cousin by marriage, I’ve known Dennis since I was ten years old. To me, he was just as much family as his wife. Dennis had a great sense of humor. He always went the extra mile for others, never expecting anything in return. Dennis was also an attorney. And the inspiration for Alex Montoya, the leading man in my second novel, The Deception. In fact, I dedicated The Deception to Dennis.
Like Dennis, Alex was a hard working attorney. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get justice for leading lady, Carrie. Of course, there are significant differences between the character and his the real-life inspiration. Alex was thirty-something and single. He’s not necessarily looking for love. That’s a prerequisite for a lead character in a romance novel. However, his real life counterpart married his college sweetheart at a young age. Each is a unique individual.
In honor of Dennis, I’m including this brief excerpt from The Deception. Like Alex, Dennis was dedicated to his clients.
* * *
After they ended the call Alex picked up the message sitting on his desk. It was from Louise’s attorney, Jack Collins, who called while he was out. He dialed the number and was immediately connected.
“Thanks for returning my call,” said Collins. “I’ve received the letter you faxed me this morning and I’ve already spoken to my client about it.”
“So what does she have to say? Is she willing to work with us to find out who really sent the photos to Gentry Magazine?”
Stephanie, the leading lady in my latest romance novel, The Letter, has a lot of spunk, and she’s not afraid to call it as she sees it.
A legal secretary, Stephanie has been in a relationship Danny for some time. She wants to know where their relationship is heading, but whenever she brings it up, Danny quickly changes the subject.
Their relationship soons takes an unexpected turn when Stephanie accidentally stumbles on a card another woman sent Danny. Her best friend thinks the sender is nothing more than a lonely ex, but Stephanie remains unconvinced. Is she really an ex? Or has Danny been seeing his old girlfriend on the side? The old girlfriend, however, will soon be the least of her worries. Her entire world soon spirals out of control. And while things aren’t necessarily as they appear, she’ll make a rash decision which changes her life forever.
Stephanie is a purely fictitious character. However, the opening chapter of The Letter is based on a real-life event that happened to a close friend many years ago.
Hard working and ambitious Danny Woodruff is my most complicated leading man to date. He intends to work his way up the corporate ladder; all the way to the top. He also loves leading lady Stephanie. Or at least he thinks he does, in his own way. Unfortunately, Danny has a problem. He’s haunted by women from his past.
Danny and Stephanie have been in a relationship for some time. She wants to know where things are going, but whenever she brings it up, he changes the subject. He’s perfectly happy with the status quo, and he’s not sure if he even wants a wife and family. As the story unfolds we learn more about Danny’s past and his struggle to overcome it. However, the ending may not be what you were expecting.
Danny is a composite character inspired by men I’ve known in the past. He may not be my most likable leading man, but he’s probably the most realistic.