I’m sometimes asked how I create my characters – and the short answer is that I don’t. I wait for them to create themselves. As soon as the idea for a story begins to take shape in my mind, the main characters are also there. To start with, I don’t even know much about them, apart from their names and (usually) their occupations. Soon, however, even when I’m still thinking about the story, they start to come alive for me. I can see them in my mind’s eye. Once I start writing, I can hear their voices, and I know what they’re thinking and feeling.
They are purely my own imagination, but they become as real to me as any real-life people. I don’t base them on anyone I know, or even on anyone I’ve actually seen, although sometimes, when I’m part way through a story, I may see someone on TV and think, ‘Yes, he’s exactly how I imagine Guy’. When I was writing one story, I realised that my hero looked rather like Colin Firth (or maybe my subconscious visualised him like that!)
This happens with the minor characters just as much as with the hero and heroine. I can visualise them all and they are as clear as if I was seeing and hearing them in real life.
Their personalities evolve as I write. Half the time, I don’t actually think about it, but it just happens, mainly because I become so immersed in their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes they surprise me, but I love those moments when they reveal something about themselves that I didn’t actually know beforehand.
In IRISH INHERITANCE, for example, Jenna has a friend named Charley, but I wasn’t sure whether Charley was male or female until part way through the story.
In IRISH INTRIGUE, I raised my eyebrows when Charley told Luke that she’d grown up on a small farm in Hampshire, as I hadn’t even thought about her childhood.
In IRISH SECRETS, I had to wait for Kara to tell me that she had dated her previous boyfriend for six months before she discovered he was married, and in
IRISH DECEPTIONS, I was surprised to find Dan had twin nieces.
By the end of the story, I can see how my characters have grown. Not necessarily changed, but learned more about themselves and/or about each other, or understood why and how they had made mistakes and made an effort to put things right – the possibilities for some kind of character development are endless.
I admit I am a total ‘pantser’ - I rely on my characters to take me through theirstory, and I enjoy the journey with them.
Excerpt from IRISH INTRIGUE, Mist Na Mara Series, Book 2
(Charley’s first meeting with Luke in a supermarket)
Charley started to push her trolley toward the cash desk, but stopped when the man said, ‘Thanks again, but don’t I know you from somewhere?’
With a small grimace of resignation, she half-turned back to him. She didn’t recall meeting him when she’d lived here in Ireland, but perhaps he’d seen her on television. Or else it was a clichéd pick-up line.
‘I don’t think so.’ She gave him a perfunctory smile as her glance took in rugged good looks in a square face and dark wavy hair. Not exactly tousled, but certainly untamed.
The man frowned for a moment before his face cleared. ‘You remind me of my mother-in-law.’
‘Really?’ She suppressed a grin. Being compared to a mother-in-law was a novel kind of comment.
‘Not really, no. Her hair’s short and straight, not long like yours, and her face is rounder.’
She couldn’t help but laugh. ‘So I’m nothing like her?’
‘You’re much younger, of course, but your eyes are the same colour. Unusual.’
‘Brown eyes are unusual?’
‘Kind of coppery. I’m useless with colours, but that’s what she said hers were.’
‘Oh, I see.’
It seemed an odd conversation to be having with a stranger in a supermarket, but her heartbeat quickened at the attractive twinkle in his dark eyes as he smiled.
He held out his hand. ‘Luke Sullivan. Pleased to meet you.’
‘Oh – erm – yes.’ As she put her hand in his, something low in her stomach jerked in response to his strong handshake. ‘Charley Hunter.’ Deliberately she didn’t use her professional surname, which he might recognise if the local press had reported anything about Waterside Hall being used as a film location during the next few weeks.
‘Short for Charlotte, but only my grandmother calls me that.’
‘Hunter was my mother-in-law’s maiden name. Maybe you share the same ancestry.’
‘Maybe.’ She’d no intention of telling him it was her married surname. ‘I’ve never done any family history research.’
‘Me neither. Can’t run the risk of finding ancestors who were sheep stealers, or cattle rustlers, or horse thieves. Could ruin my reputation.’
Intrigued, she raised her eyebrows. ‘Why?’
‘I’m a vet. My clients might think I’m out to steal their animals.’
She laughed. ‘I don’t think thieving is in one’s genes.’
‘Ach, I’m not so sure. I once stole six daffodils from the churchyard for my mam on Mother’s Day. I ’fessed up at the end of the day, though. Guilty conscience, it was.’
‘How old were you?’
‘Seven, and I’d spent all my money on a card for her, so I couldn’t afford any flowers.’
‘I’m sure she understood.’
‘She was relieved, ’cause she thought I might have nicked them from the shop in the village. But she made me buy and plant six daffodil bulbs in the churchyard later that year.’
Charley smiled. ‘Wise lady.’
‘Aye, taught me a lesson I never forgot.’
‘So your clients probably aren’t in any danger of you becoming a horse thief.’
He laughed, a deep rich laugh that sent a ripple through her. ‘I hope so.’
Actress Charley Hunter is forced back to Ireland to complete her filming of a TV drama series. She still hasn’t come to terms with losing her husband there two years ago, so the last thing she expects is her instant attraction for the local veterinarian.
After Luke Sullivan’s divorce, he vowed to concentrate on his two young children and his busy veterinary practice. Falling for Charley certainly wasn’t in his plans.
While trying to find their way together, Luke is suddenly faced with a series of unexplained crises at his clinic, as well as his ex-wife filing for custody. And has Charley put his children in danger? Has she betrayed him?
Can they reconcile their differences and find love?
Links to all four of my Mist Na Mara novels are shown on my Amazon author page:
Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.
She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.
Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.