Features Character Study: Four Authors Share How They’d Spend the Day with Their Characters
After reading a great thriller, you put it down with a sigh and marvel at the mind of the protagonist, the character whose victories and defeats have held you enthralled for the better part of a day or two.
You also wonder about the mind of the person who created such a character—how did the author do it? What thoughts led the author to create protagonists with such delicious traits, intriguing mannerisms, and indomitable wills?
In this edition of The Big Thrill, we have the rare privilege to peek into the minds of four fabulous authors. To each of them, we asked this question:
“Would you and your main character from your latest novel get along? If you spent a day together, what activity would it be on?“
Here are their wonderfully honest, very personal responses.
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Character: Franco Fiorvanti, Gaetano Catalano, Mafalda Pancari
I would get along with all of my characters in LOYALTY, and in fact, I do. I feel like I’ve lived with them for 400 or so pages, and I have imagined being with each and every one of them, or actually being them. And I love all of them, even the bad ones. I think in the novel you see why they make the choices they make, and as the great Sandra Brown says, the villain is the hero of his own story.
As for the activity, I know it would be riding horses across Sicily like they all do in the book. I love to ride, but I’m terrible at it and too timid. I’ve been riding for over 20 years and I’m still too nervous to go fast. I even ride a pony, not a horse because I’m afraid of heights. I have a new pony now, and the last person who owned him was seven years old. That’s my speed in reality—but in my mind, I fly.
Author: Charles Salzberg
Book: MAN ON THE RUN
Character: Francis Hoyt
There’s a good reason Francis Hoyt doesn’t have any friends. He’s intelligent and charismatic, but he’s also narcissistic, single-minded, and constantly looking to get over on anyone who crosses his path. Not exactly character traits that would endear him to other people. So, if we did spend a day together, an unlikely scenario, it would most certainly be doing an activity he, not me, would be interested in. Like a house tour of the rich and famous. Or a trip to the library to research sophisticated alarm systems. But no matter what we did or where we went, I’d always be on the lookout for lies—and manipulation. As a master burglar, Francis is constantly plotting, always conniving.
Not exactly part of the recipe for having a good time. And yet, I have to admit I wouldn’t mind hanging with him. I’d certainly learn a lot, even if it was mostly about how to take something that isn’t mine and get away with it. A skill-set, for sure, but not one I’d enthusiastically add to my resume. And yet Francis is fascinating in large part because he’s so different from me. Perhaps we make a few hours instead of a full day?
Author: Joel Burcat
Book: STRANGE FIRE
Character: Mike Jacobs
I met Mike Jacobs when he was representing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and I was representing some corporate miscreant in a case. Typical of Pennsylvania environmental lawyers, we became friends. Although he’s much younger than me, we have a lot in common. One of the things we enjoy is hiking in the mountains around Harrisburg.
We were sitting on an overlook, hoping there were no snakes hiding under the rocks, and enjoying the mountainous vista. It took Mike a little time to open up, but when he did he asked for some advice on handling a case and I, of course, gladly gave that…and more. He’s like a younger brother and I wanted to impart some wisdom. I hoped he would listen to some of it.
I told him to enjoy the ride. Stay in shape. Spend a little more time at DEP. Be more honest about his relationships with women. Find the right woman and have kids. Do what he loves to do. Like most younger people receiving unsolicited advice from an old dude, he smiled at me. Mike’s a real mensch. I look forward to a long friendship with him.
Author: Steven James
Book: THE BROKER OF LIES
Character: Gunnar Bane
That’s an interesting question! I think we will get along because we’ve already spent more than a year together, and I’ve enjoyed the protagonist’s company. I especially enjoyed spending time with one of the other main characters named Gunnar Bane who is a former military specialist and is now freelancing as a security expert. He’s as tough as nails, but has a softer side as well.
In his spare time he’s writing a romance novel and his writing is really super cringy. (For instance, “Donovan reached out and placed his hand on Annie’s arm, carefully caressing her skin—the most visible and largest organ on her body.” Eek!)
So, it’s been fascinating getting to know him as I’ve written this high-concept thriller. I think if we spent the day together, we would go to a shooting range in the morning, grab lobster tacos (his favorite) for lunch, and then in the afternoon he would write some love scenes for his novel that I would give him… well, constructive feedback on, shaking my head the whole time. And then a beer… and maybe a bar fight…to finish off the day.
Who is one of the most memorable characters in the crime novels and thrillers you’ve read? Why? Which crime authors would you like to hear from as they speak about spending a day with their protagonists?
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