On this wintry day, I thought it might be fun to share a little about how I develop characters and work with them.

The most fun I have with my writing is creating and then talking to my characters. I’ve often told Ernie, I’d rather spend time with the people in my head. Probably the best advice I got for character creation was from a book by James N. Fey. It’s title is How To Write A Damn Good Mystery. I read it from cover to cover and took notes on the entire book. It’s my go-to reference for building three dimensional characters. Every one of my major characters has a history of family members, education, physical description and personality traits.

So…what’s in a name? Quite a bit, it turns out! Each name of the main characters is important to me because it reflects their personality and in large part, how they relate to Rowan. For example, throughout the series, two important characters, Michael and Gabriel, play big parts in facilitating Rowan’s escape or rescue from the dangerous situations he gets himself into. Michael and Gabriel happen to be names of Arch Angels, and they play that role very well for Rowan. Michael means gift from God. Gabriel means God is my strength.

The character named Chad is Rowan’s best friend and a genius level hacker. His ability helps get Rowan out of trouble and also keeps them hidden from the government and terrorists. The name Chad means protector and defender. Rowan’s former boss Ralph eventually becomes the one Rowan turns to for help keeping him on course. Ralph means wise as a wolf, or God heals.

Each name is perfect with the exception of the most important one – Rowan! How in the world did that happen?? This was a strange thing! When I chose the name Rowan for the main character, I was certain it was an Iranian name. Hmm. Doesn’t really sound like it, does it? I have no earthly explanation for how that happened, but in the end, it’s a very appropriate name.

Rowan is actually a Celtic name and its basic meaning is…Red. However, it derives from the Rowan Tree, which in Celtic mythology symbolizes courage, wisdom and protection. It is said that its feathery leaves come from a bird of prey. Well! Rowan is nothing if not courageous to a fault, and he’s all about protecting what he loves and values. I’m sure the terrorists he hunts consider him a ferocious predator, like a bird of prey. I did however have to provide an explanation in one of the books. I honestly don’t remember which one.

Before starting each book, I interview all the main characters as well as the new villains that appear. I’ll just start typing, for example: Hey Rowan, what’s on your mind, and see where it goes. It’s incredibly interesting. I find myself typing their thoughts; things that I swear I wasn’t even thinking about. This process is super effective and as I mentioned in a previous blog, often things they’ve “said” during those “conversations” become part of great dialogue.

There’s another part of the process that’s come about as my skill as a writer has improved, which I’ve recognized most easily in the fourth and fifth books, although I can see it now in the first three books as well. I just didn’t recognize it until I was working on Terminal Redemption, the fourth in the series. I’ve found that each book has a pivotal scene on which the remainder of the book turns. I can kind of sense that I’m coming to it as the scenes build and the story unfolds. It’s a fascinating process and creates a real urgency in me to write, write, WRITE.  

I’ve always been a storyteller. When I remember standing at the long black chalkboard in grade school, ready to write a story, I still feel that same excitement. It’s transferred now, to my laptop screen, although once in a while that blank screen scares me. Usually, when I start a new book, my mind, like that screen, is blank. I have vague ideas of how I want the book to end and what I want it to accomplish, but that’s it. What makes the accomplishment possible is my behind in the chair in front of my laptop and my fingers typing words on the screen. In essence, it really is that simple. Easy? No. But the process is simple, if that makes sense.

And…that’s the story behind the story! Hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the process. CHEERS! Spring is surely on it’s way. Eventually! In the meantime, Rowan’s choice of poison is also mine.


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