Monday, March 14, 2011

The Boy Inside the Man

People who've read my books know that I've let the odd character wander from one story into another. When I needed a vicar for a few scenes in my thriller Every Secret Thing, for instance, it occurred to me that I already had a vicar Tom from Mariana so instead of giving someone else the gig, I just used Tom. Why re-invent the wheel?

But in this latest work in progress, I've done something that I've never done before. Inspired by a fan's suggestion, I've taken a character who was a child in a previous book, and I've let him age naturally into the hero of this one. I didn't know if it would work, but the moment he entered the story, no longer a boy but a man, I could see just how perfect he was for the part.

I've found it fascinating, watching him develop as a character and noticing what qualities and habits he's held onto as he's grown. I tried to make him serious and quiet, but in dialogue his sense of fun and mischief still came out. And he still tips his head to the side when he's thinking, a habit I'd nearly forgotten. (In case that sounds crazy, I should explain: I "see" all my characters moving and talking as though I were watching a film, while I'm writing the gift of an active subconscious...)

Back when I first created Robbie sixteen years ago, I never could have seen him growing into a romantic hero, but he's got me thinking now of other heroes I first met as boys in books I loved, like Gilbert Blythe, who just gets cuter and more charming in the Anne books, or Almanzo Wilder, who matures from the Farmer Boy into one of my favourite kinds of heroes: the good-natured, strong and dependable type.

I think, with both men, it was having that background of where they had come from that made me so fond of them, and that's undoubtedly why I'm now so fond of Rob in this new book of mine.

I've been trying to think of more heroes who started as boys in a book (or a series of books), but I'm drawing a blank so far. Who else can think of one? And do you still see the boy in the man when he's grown?

(Don't forget to come back and read Julie's post this coming Thursday).


  1. I love that you have done this for Robbie, and I can't wait to read his book!

  2. Susanna, which book was Robbie from, and which book is he the hero in?

  3. The book that immediately sprang to mind for me was Loretta Chase's "Last Night's Scandal," when Peregrine and Olivia, who were children in "Lord Perfect," get a story of their own. I also thought of Samuel in Laura Kinsale's "Shadow and the Star." I know he's from an earlier book, because Kinsale says so in the preface - that she needed to give a little boy a happier ending than the one she had left him with - but I haven't actually read the earlier book.
    I really enjoy reading about characters who are so well developed, and seeing which characteristics from childhood have made them into the kinds of characters we want to see get an HEA of their own.

  4. I loved Gilbert Blythe too, he was great both as a child and a grown-up. Can't think of any others at the moment, but look forward to seeing what you've done with your Rob!

    Funnily enough, I've just finished writing a sequel and although the hero was just a baby in the previous book and therefore didn't have much personality yet, I found it fascinating to explore what had happened to him. Some characters are so hard to let go of!

  5. Marg, I had a feeling you'd like Robbie :-)

    Julie, Robbie (or Rob, as he now calls himself) was the young boy with "The Sight" in my novel The Shadowy Horses, so he was very much in evidence in that book. One of my fans wrote a while ago asking whether he would ever get a story of his own, and while I'd never really thought about it, when I started getting the ideas for my sort-of-sequel to The Winter Sea/Sophia's Secret, I saw how I could use him. So I did.

    Lauren, thanks for bringing up Loretta Chase's books. I've only read a couple of hers, but will look for these (starting of course with Lord Perfect, so I can meet Peregrine as a boy..)

    Christina, yes, I think that's it..some characters just seem to hold our hearts a little more and make it harder to let go of them!

  6. Susanna, I remember being thrilled to find Tom show up in Every Secret Thing, which I read directly after Mariana. I'm giving this wandering character thing a go in my novel in progress. Charlie is a minor character in my first 18th century novel, who dropped a passing hint about where he was living 10 years previously. After that novel I wrote second, and now have started on a third, which happens to be set in the area Charlie was living, and in the right time period. So when I needed a character just like he might have been, it felt only natural to use Charlie. And I like the story worlds connected notion.