This month's Blog Hop topic is: What characters in other author's books have not left your mind? Have you written a character who wouldn't leave you? Why do you think this happens?
Years ago, when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, I read Heidi by Johanna Spyri and fell so in love with Heidi I wanted to be her. I remember lying in a sunny patch of carpet wishing with all my young heart that I could be her and live on that mountain in the Alps with the Grandfather and Peter. It didn’t happen, of course. I grew up, had a family of my own and have lived some amazing adventures (although I’ve never visited the Alps, at least not yet) but I have never forgotten Heidi and Peter. I could say it was because of the beauty of the alps, but I hadn't seen the movie yet. But I think it was because I have always yearned for adventure, to go somewhere different, experience something I haven't yet seen or done and Heidi's world was about as different as my middle class, suburban neighborhood as it gets.
As a teenager, I read a trilogy written about a girl, then woman who lived on an island on the Maine coast. Joanna Bennett was in many ways a lot like me, but I was always more smitten with Nils Sorenson, the boy, then man who loved Joanna and stuck by her through all her bad decisions and headstrong ways until she finally realized how much he meant to her and that all she had thought she needed meant nothing without him. I loved the coast of Maine even though I didn't live there and living on an island had a wonderful allure and Nils Sorenson was the kind of boy I wanted to meet and someday marry. I was too naive to consider what it would be like to be married to a lobsterman who got up before the sun and came home smelling of fish bait, but the steadfastness of his love for Joanna appealed to me.
Since then three characters, all male, have touched my heart and imagination and stayed with me long after I put the book down. The first was Jamie Fraser (Diana Gabaldon, Outlander) – long before Sam Heughan brought him to life in the Starz series. The second was Jessie Best (Pamela Morsi. Simple Jess) and most recently, Josh Caven (Cheryl Reavis, The Marine.) I think what made these characters so memorable for me was that all of them were strong male characters who loved fiercely, cared deeply, were honorable, selfless and brave, yet vulnerable and in one way or another were able to admit to that vulnerability and open themselves up to the women they loved. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading Jack Reacher’s exploits and he’s a hard character to forget, but the Reachers of this world don’t really need anyone. Jessie Best, Nils Sorenson, James Fraser and Josh Caven were men I would like had I met them in the real world, and they embodied all the things I valued most in a soul mate, husband and lover.
None of the characters I've created have ever quite left me entirely, both male and female. I think this is partly because as the author, I spent months getting to know them. I knew them better than myself in some ways. I knew what hurt them and what healed them. I felt their pain and soared with their successes because I was there as their stories were unfolding and they shared with me, whispers while I was out walking, dreams while I drowsed and outright conversations while I worked. Of my books currently available, I think the two characters who stand out in my heart and head are Matt Steele, my protagonist in The Candidate, and Dani Amico, the heroine in Iain’s Plaid, for different reasons. Matt because his personal journey included a lot of research that brought back memories of the time when I was coming of age, a time of turmoil for our country and myself in so many ways. And Dani stays with me, because her story grew out of one of my own adventures. I went out sailing to explore an island full of history, walked over paths men and women trod for over 400 years, a place I'd only read about. But Dani got to go places I could never see except in my imagination. So, perhaps she is a little piece of me, and I in some ways am a part of her.
I’d love to hear about the characters that you’ve met in books that have stuck with you. Please comment below and I'll draw one name from a hat and send either The Candidate or Iain's Plaid for your reading pleasure.
Check out some favorite characters these authors can't leave behind.
Heidi M. Thomas