by Christine Kling
Often times people ask me if my characters are simply slightly changed versions of me. I’ve heard friends say that when they have been reading my Seychelle novels, they hear my voice in their heads. But you know what? When I create my characters, I make them significantly different from me. They are generally younger, stronger and tougher and that difference has really been brought home for me recently.
On my research trip in Thailand and the Philippines, I was backpacking and staying in the cheapest private rooms I could find. There were many guest houses that had “dorms” where lots of folks stayed in one big room, but I always took the cheapest private room. The least expensive room I stayed in was around $32 and the most expensive (In Subic Bay) was around $70. Sometimes, the rooms were clean and delightful, but at other times, the cleanliness was less than desirable. Some of the rooms and no windows but old dirty air conditioners which were undoubtedly full of bacteria and viruses. Shortly after my arrival in the Philippines, while down in Puerto Gallera, I came down with a rotten cold. I’ve been fighting it ever since.
The trip back to Florida from the Philippines is one grueling SOB. Our bodies have certain circadian rhythms for sleep and awake time, and these flights can screw everything up. Take this for example: my flight took off from Manila at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night and after an 11-12 hour flight, it arrived at San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Got that? I arrived 4 hours before I left. Freaky, huh? Crossing the International Date Line can do that. The next morning, I flew to Denver and after a 4-hour layover, I flew on to Florida arriving at midnight. And then, of course, I could not sleep the rest of the night. It was midday for me.
Now, if I were actually one of my kick-ass characters, such trauma would be no big deal and I’d bounce right back. I’d be duking it out with bad guys and sailing off into the teeth of a storm. But, hey, I’m not either Seychelle or Riley and the wear and tear of all that jet lag let loose the bugs in my system again. By Monday morning, I was sick as a dog. I spent the next couple of days napping on the couch in the condo where my son lives and taking it easy and trying to recover from the jet lag and this weird Asian flu that I can’t seem to kick.
As writers, we sometimes get reviews that claim our characters are not realistic. I just got a new review of SURFACE TENSION wherein the guy wrote, “The main quibble I have, and the reason I only gave it four stars, is that the heroin gets captured or kidnapped or held five times! Jeeez. In many suspense thrillers the main character gets captured and escapes once, sometimes twice, but five times is really pushing it. It makes her seems like such a sap. Since this is her first adventure I hope she learns from her mistakes and the author turns it down a couple of notches in the subsequent novels.”
By my reckoning, this guy is counting every encounter she has with the bad guys as a capture or kidnap, so okay, I’ll grant the five times. Of course, if Seychelle were a mere mortal like me, that would be over the top. I’d probably be done in by one encounter with real bad guys. And books about me would be pretty boring. But I don’t write books about me. I write thrillers and the characters I write are not me, in spite of what many friends may think. My characters are younger, stronger and far more courageous than I am. They don’t get sick and fall into their bunks to recuperate. Maybe, if I wrote a different sort of book, they would, but I don’t write realism. I write books to take people out of their ordinary lives. So, while my adventures these past few weeks traveling through SE Asia have been plenty exciting enough for me, now I get to buckle down and write a tale that will turn it all up several notches, because – like it or not – that is what I do.
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