Jennifer (Jo) says:
Sometimes it’s there. In Looking For Charlotte, my heroine, Flora, goes to the Boxing Day football with her male friend. In Storm Child Marcus’s missing key ring bears the crest of Stoke City and in my upcoming detective series, work repeatedly causes Jude to cancel his arrangement to go and see Carlisle United with his father.
My female characters are a more diverse bunch and have a lot less in common, although you can be sure that if you find one of them driving a Fiat 500 they’re definitely on the right side of whatever line I’ve drawn. And all the good guys, male or female, love cats.
It’s said that writers always put a little bit of themselves into all their work. A trait I know I have is for my heroine to take their coffee black, without sugar, and from a cafetiere – as do I. My heroines are always tallish – say 5’ 7” and slender – which I only am in my 5’ 2” dreams! A couple of readers have also told me that most of my heroines have a female best friend who is often not as well-educated as she is, but more than makes up for that in common sense and kindness, and loyalty. Said female best friend often has a rather naughty sense of humour – somewhat irreverent at times – and that’s probably because she’s not the heroine, with a problem to solve between the first page and the last, and she has this freedom to do that. Says, Linda, currently writing a wacky female best friend into her wip while the heroine drinks her coffee black, no sugar.
What do my characters have in common? At first I supposed nothing much. I try to make each unique, imagining their backstory and creating them from scratch. However, after some thought I realised food was significant for most of my protagonists. Perhaps not surprising as I read cookery books as part of my character development, much in the same way others create meaningful musical playlists.
During research for my work-in-progress, I discovered two very different, but equally brilliant, foodie writers. The first is best-selling entrepreneur and health enthusiast Ella Woodward, better known as Deliciously Ella, whose recipes are light and nutritious: Chickpea, Quinoa and Turmeric Curry; Mango and Avocado Salsa; Courgette Banana Bread. Whilst the recipe book helping me understand my second protagonist is A Girl Called Jack by award-winning Jack Monroe; 100 delicious recipes on a budget. Jack was a single mum with only £10 per week left to feed herself and her young son when she began blogging about how to make the most of the limited ingredients she had available. Her remarkable story is one of resourcefulness, thriving despite all life threw at her. Her recipes are both tasty and cheap.
My family are used to my research spilling over into meal times. Perhaps I should write a Christmas novella? The perfect excuse for my characters, and loved ones, to enjoy some festive treats. Seems my characters’ foodie obsession is here to stay. Merry Christmas one and all!
All the novels in the series are stand-alone tales, which means they can be read in any order, but the experience and character traits of the main character are naturally influenced by the generations who have gone before them. This did bring up the issue of being careful not to reveal too much about the generation before as I did not want to spoil the previous story if it was read in a different order. This is why in A Daughter’s Christmas Wish, I do not reveal who the hero’s mother married as her story will be released in the spring of 2019. It would be nice to one day reveal the full family tree, but as that would give away who ended up with who, that might be one “reveal” that stays firmly behind closed doors.
Writing standalone books I always strive to make my main characters interesting and different in every book - I don’t want them to have things in common with previous characters. Okay, main female characters always need a best friend or someone feisty like an aunt, who basically tells them to stop being a whimp and get on with things when they confide in them, which helps to move the story on, but that’s about as far as it goes.
Cue a few days of muttering, ‘I can’t do this there is absolutely nothing that links the characters in any of my novels to each other.’
I decided to put it out of my mind and get on with my latest wip hoping that something would occur to me before the deadline. And it did! There IS something that appears in all my books (probably more than it should really!)
So, on behalf of Rosie from ‘Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera’, Tina and Jodie in ‘A Year of Taking Chances’, Karen in ‘Summer at Coastguard Cottages’ ad Harriet in ‘The Little Kiosk By the Sea’ to name but four, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Wonderful New Year with the champagne that links them all!
Blame it on Downton Abbey. British drama – including police procedurals, which are my absolute fave – kindled a passion for the giant country houses that require piles of cash and even more servants to make them run efficiently. (Think Midsomer Murders and the fabulous houses featured in each episode.) The people that live in these houses fascinate me. My writer’s mind often wonders what must it be like to set your feet on ancient Aubusson carpet each morning, to walk hallways that are hundreds of years old. My favourite fictional characters often are around houses such this. Sometimes they’ve lived in a home that has been in their family for generations. Maybe they’ve been forced out due to some dramatic circumstance that sucks me into the story. The rags to riches meme is especially charming, with the hero – having finally arrived home – gazing out the window at the sweeping view. My husband has often asked what sparked this interest in me. I don’t have an answer to that question, so I just blame it on Downton Abbey.