How Characters Come Alive
How many of you grew up watching Westerns on television? I sure did! Well, the good ones came on after my bedtime, so I listened to most of them—Gunsmoke, Have Gun – Will Travel, Bonanza, Cheyenne (I love Clint Walker’s voice! Okay, so I liked to look at him, too). But one show I did get to see was Maverick, and the lovable cardsharp played by James Garner, Bret Maverick, is one of the best bad boy charmers ever created. No one can top it, in my opinion.
Growing up on a dairy farm isn’t exactly exciting, but it’s a wonderful setting for a kid with an overactive imagination, especially fueled by the movies and television shows of the time. All my stories have sprung from this fertile ground, and I doubt the ideas will ever run dry. I hope not! As of now, I’d have to live to be about 450 to get all my story ideas written.
Even after all these years, Maverick’s easy charm and smiles in the face of danger has never left me—or a lot of us, judging from comments on my blog. So when the leading lady character came to me, a heroine based on my aunt Grace’s incredible math abilities, it hit me that she needed a bad boy charmer to loosen her up a bit (my heroine, not Aunt Grace—she was a hoot!). You know who that is!
Recipe for a hero: Take one Maverick, add in a little Remington Steele. Blend. Maybe throw in a little James Bond (shake, don’t stir), and mix in some of my dad’s unique brand of humor. Go off half-baked, and there you have it.
Along about the time Sleight of Heart was taking shape, I read George Devol’s Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi for another project. Not only is Devol’s book a great how-to for a thoroughbred gambler, it’s a fantastic character study—mostly because of what he doesn’t say. A lot of Burke O’Shaughnessy’s outlook on life came from that book.
So there you have it. Once the characters are solid and the situation is crazy enough, the author has to get out of the way and let the Muse go to work. Believe me, sometimes it’s quite a ride.
I’m planning a series of novellas in the High-Stakes Heroes series to follow up Sleight of Heart. The heroes are named and a few of the stories are solidifying in the mysterious corners of my mind, so watch for those in late 2014.
For more western historical romance, try my Hearts of Owyhee series. These books are all set in Owyhee [oh-WY-hee] County, Idaho Territory, in the mid 1880s. The county was named after some Hawaiian fur trappers were lost there, and never found, in the 1820s. Owyhee is the original anglicized spelling of Hawaii.