It is a delight to be joined on the blog today by bestselling English author, Rosie Travers to discuss how she creates characters in her novels. Thank you for joining me, Rosie.
Firstly, thank you Val for giving me the opportunity to talk about my favourite part of the writing process – creating characters. Characters are a writer’s imaginary friends. They keep us company, we can make them do our bidding, but sometimes we have to do theirs.
I’d like to introduce you to Eliza Kane, the heroine of my latest novel, A Crisis at Clifftops. Eliza is a professional golfer who turns amateur sleuth when her grandmother is named as the chief suspect in a murder enquiry.
Eliza popped into my head one wintry afternoon during a mini break in the Isle of Wight. I came up with a vague idea for a story featuring a jaded professional golfer who makes an unceremonious return home the island to rejuvenate a family run seaside amusement business.
Making my golfer female immediately introduced a new twist, but as soon as she appeared on the page, Eliza Kane demanded more than the well-worn plot of coming home to rest and recuperate.
Sporting heroines are few and far between in contemporary women’s fiction; for me that was a good enough reason to create one. However, I don’t play golf, in fact I know very little about the sport, but what I do know is that it is a male dominated world. Eliza Kane would need to be gritty and determined, triumphing over adversity to reach the top of her game. She’d be dedicated and competitive, with a strong sense of fair play, skills which also make her the perfect amateur detective. A whole new story evolved. I’d set the scene for a cosy mystery.
As the characters of Eliza and her grandmother, Lilian, developed, it soon became clear my story was as much about the relationship between the two women, as about the “mystery”. This gave me much more scope to delve into the intricacies of family dynamics.
Lilian has been a role model throughout Eliza’s career. She single-handedly managed the family’s hotel and golfing business before moving to a care home, where she is subsequently accused of causing the death of a fellow resident. Eliza has always held her grandmother in the greatest esteem, emulating her diligence and dedication. When she sets out to prove Lilian’s innocence, she stumbles upon a series of clues which suggest the old lady may be anything but. Eliza discovers Lilian has a dubious past, which throws up a moral dilemma. The qualities Lilian instilled in her granddaughter now work against her, as Eliza becomes determined to crack the case.
Readers want characters they can relate to and invest in. I want my readers to understand Eliza’s motives and empathise with her emotions. It’s my job as a writer to find the balance between creating characters who possess enough weaknesses and failings to make them believable, yet also give them the tenacity and strength to overcome all the obstacles I put in their path.
I realised early on in her creation that Eliza Kane is also an homage to Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, the only other fictional female professional golfer I’ve ever come across. The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books and Jordan Baker is the girlfriend of Nick Carraway, the narrator. Jordan is hard, cynical, and self-contained, and following her involvement in a cheating scandal, described as “inherently dishonest”. I would never describe Eliza as dishonest, but she does have a tendency to be economical with the truth (another characteristic she has inherited from her grandmother!). Like her 1920s counterpart, Eliza is tough and independent, and she has a vulnerability. Due to a persistent injury her game has slumped. She uses Lilian’s arrest as an excuse to quit a tournament rather than face a humiliating defeat. Anxious to find a new role for herself post retirement, she impulsively embraces a scheme to revamp the family business, which all goes horribly wrong. Eliza is passionate and punchy. She jumps to conclusions without knowing all the facts. And she drinks too much. (What writer doesn’t put a little of themselves into their main character?!)
Naturally at the story’s conclusion Eliza and Lilian have reached a new understanding in their relationship. Eliza recognises her own flaws and is able to make rational plans for her future off the competitive golf circuit – a relief for me as I can now send her off into a variety of other situations to investigate future mysteries!
Having created the character of Eliza, I’m not letting her go. The Isle of Wight isn’t known as the crime capital of the world, and I have to be realistic about Eliza’s capabilities. Neither of us have any forensics training. However, she has become a firm friend and is great fun to be with. I hope readers enjoy hanging out with her too.
Rosie Travers grew up in Southampton on the south coast of England. She spent many years working in local government before becoming a lady of leisure when her husband took an overseas work assignment in California in 2009. Now back in the UK, Rosie lives with her husband Neil and cat Ed on the edge of the New Forest.
Rosie writes contemporary fiction, interweaving multi-layered family dramas with intrigue, sprinklings of romance, and a good dose of humour. Her third novel, A Crisis at Clifftops, is the first in a series of humorous cosy mysteries set on the Isle of Wight. The second in the series, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, will be published later this summer.
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosie-Travers/e/B07CVZ2CQ5/