Please help me welcome multi-pubbed, award-winning author and fellow Berkley sister, Kylie Brant, to Mysteries and Margaritas. She's the author of thirty-one romantic suspense novels for Silhouette and Berkley. She's a three-time Rita finalist and has been nominated for five Romantic Times awards, including a win for Career Achievement. She claims that her two Daphne du Maurier awards, won for mystery and suspense writing, are the only things she regularly dusts!
She's here today talking about her not-so-perfect characters, and as a bonus, she's giving away an autographed copy of her latest suspense novel, DEADLY INTENT.
So, take it away, Kylie
I Meet the Most Interesting People...
Okay, a lot of them are products of my imagination, but they *are* intriguing story people, at least. People who, if they were real, I could admire and respect. People I'd be proud to call friends. Not because they're perfect. Perfection is boring :) My characters are flawed, sometimes deeply. They struggle to overcome obstacles to do the right thing. They've become good people despite sometimes traumatic incidents in their pasts. They're complex, because the most interesting people are multi-faceted, with layers that aren't easily pierced.
When I'm coming up with a new story sometimes it's the suspense plot that will occur first, but more often it's the characters who first spring to life, fully developed. Then the suspense idea closely follows and I ask myself, 'How would these story people react to that situation? What will it make it particularly difficult for them to reach their goal?" There's always an external conflict of course, usually in the way of a villain. But giving characters a flaw or an emotional conflict means they have an inner struggle as well.
My characters, despite any other flaws, are extraordinarily patient :) Some linger in my mind for years, waiting for their turn to have their story told. Others are more demanding, surging to the forefront and beating on the walls of my imagination, refusing to be ignored any longer. Just as in real life, the squeaky wheel is often heard first.
From my earliest years I've always been fascinated by why people do the things they do. In that way I suppose I imagine them from a psychological point of view. Naming them and giving them physical attributes are probably the last things I do for character development, and are the most deliberate actions I take with them. Oddly enough, the physical description of my characters often requires the most thought. I don't necessarily 'see' them so much as I 'know' them--what and who they are and what events have shaped them. I often land on their descriptions simply through the process of elimination--let's see, I haven't had a green-eyed heroine in several books :) Perhaps because of this quirk, the most difficult question I'm asked is: if your book were a movie, who would you cast as the leading characters? I always have to go back and remind myself, okay, what did they look like again? I tend to think that who people are inside is ever so much more interesting than what they look like!
Somehow my cast always seem to have at least one character that adds some comic relief. I don't do this consciously but I have a slightly twisted sense of humor
The villain, of course, is the most interesting character to write, because evil is riveting. Delving into what events twisted people into psychopathy is endlessly fascinating. Perhaps because I had a perfectly ordinary upbringing, devoid of homicidal maniacs or anything more traumatic than having to wear braces for three years, I have to dig deep for these crazed characters at times. Unfortunately, the news is awash with horrible things that people have been forced to endure. But its also full of stories that prove the resiliency of the human spirit. And I think that factor, when it comes to the closure of the story, makes for the most satisfying of endings.
Some characters I've read have stayed with me always. Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Holden Caulfield, from Catcher in the Rye. Huck Finn. What unforgettable characters have you run across in your reading?