June 2021 Featured Article

Creating Characters

Part of my father’s family came to the United States a century before Great Britain had her eye on the New World. The rest arrived rather late – in 1883 to be exact – and took up residence in Baltimore, Maryland. Life was good until The Great War when having surnames like Braun, Schafer, and Nagel could get you beat up or worse. As a result, my ancestors downplayed their “German-ness,” and my siblings and I knew little of our German heritage while growing up. Fortunately over the last ten years, my father’s wife has explored our genealogy, giving the family a peek into our past and an appreciation for the various cultures that make up the population of the United States.


Three-dimensional characters that readers can relate to are important in any story, whether contemporary, historical, speculative, or some other genre. Part of the complexity is based on the background of the hero or heroine. Many of my recent books take place in America’s Old West, an area filled with immigrants from eastern and western Europe, South America, and Asia, so I’ve taken the opportunity to create characters from Ireland, Norway, Germany, Britain, and France. My September release features a Scottish duke.


Research for these characters has included reading diaries and memoirs, contacting cultural societies such as the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia or the Norwegian-American Historical Association, and cooking ethnic foods. I struck gold when my sister introduced me to a farmer in Iowa who was Scandinavian who could educate me on the state, his vocation, and his heritage.


After I decide on my characters’ background, I give them names indicative of their culture. Next, I determine their jobs (probably because of my long career as a human resources professional). Only after my character is fully formed do I devise what sort of mess I can subject him or her to.


I’ve loved delving into the tapestry of cultures that comprise the United States and hope I’ve honored the brave men and women who reached our shores through grit and perseverance.


The past clashes with the present to jeopardize their future.


Fiona Quigley’s parents came to America for a better life, but illness and the Civil War took them from her. Now, she’s barely scraping by as a seamstress to Boston’s elite. A chance for a new start arises in the form of being a mail-order bride, but to her dismay she must marry the man by proxy. Once they’re wed, there will be no turning back.


After being jailed one too many times for protesting against the Unionists in Ireland, Keegan O’Rourke heads for America—land of the free. He takes advantage of the Homestead Act to create a farm in his new country, but he has no one to share his success, so he advertises for a mail-order bride. They wed by proxy, but after she arrives, he discovers his Irish lass hails from the northern reaches of the Emerald Isle – the very area he fled.


History, intrigue, and romance will keep you turning pages in this addition to the exciting Proxy Bride series.

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