Mining Memories, Creating My Hero
My hero in is Zach Bentley. He was sparked when I was thinking of someone I knew as a teenager, who was with a group of lads who vandalised an empty building. We’ll call him Stuart. Stuart managed to slit his wrist on a broken window pane. As he pumped arterial blood, one of the gang hustled him into a nearby street in search of help. Stuart was lucky to get away without police punishment but he needed surgery upon surgery to the injury and was more fortunate than Stuart in because he finally regained most of the use in his hand.
This memory sparked Zach at eighteen. I made him not Stuart but the lad who got Stuart help when the rest of the group ran away. Being sucked into a gang of vandals made Zach vulnerable but saving someone whilst putting himself at risk of retribution from the police made him heroic. I like this combination of traits. If I don’t give heroes vulnerabilities then they become too good to be true, which makes him neither realistic nor likeable.
I cast Stuart as the youngest of the gang and easily led by the leader, Fitzmo, so the act also established Zach as a protector of underdogs. A desire to deepen the same conflict made me get Stuart and Zach charged with the vandalism to the building - the rest of the gang ran away, remember - and Zach got community service. To build on that conflict further, I gave him a dad, Steve, who reacted badly to his son being seen picking up litter at the side of the road, which caused a rift in the family.
Consequences are important to me in character building, especially when they prompt changes in direction. A consequence of the rift was that Zach didn’t take up the university education he’d planned because he would have had to be beholden to Steve for financial support. Instead, he took a job with workplace training, which meant he could leave the family home. He hated the job in data and statistics but it served a purpose.
Other character facets were needed at this point. A unifying factor in is characters having the British army somewhere in their family tree. Zach’s dad Steve was in an army school in Malta with heroine Rosa’s mum, Dory, which meant that Dory and Steve’s father served in Malta at the same time. Worried about Brexit or other shifting political situations making it hard for Zach to work on the island for as long as I needed, I gave him a Maltese grandmother, Rebekah, which meant he was entitled to a Maltese passport if it proved necessary for him to have one.
Circling back to the original spark for the idea, I made Zach encounter Stuart again, twelve years later, being taunted and bullied by Fitzmo in a pub. With a few beers inside him, Zach saw red and biffed Fitzmo on the nose. The police had just entered the pub and Zach was in trouble again - for protecting the same underdog from the same bully. The rift with Steve grew more bitter; Zach’s employer was displeased he had a criminal record; and so Rebekah offered Zach a chance to go to Malta and work on her property there, hoping Zach and Steve getting a break from one another would cool the anger between them. Zach hated his job anyway, his brushes with the law had caused issues with his previous relationship so he was free to go.
All of the above happens in Zach’s backstory which, for me, is where characters are born.
I knew Zach. He fights for underdogs, even when it gets him in trouble - and he continues to do so, throughout the book. He has a judgemental father, more than one connection with the island of Malta (army grandfather, army-kid father who lived on the island, Maltese grandmother), reasons to be in Malta and trust issues when it comes to relationships. People go to Zach for help: his sisters, his mum and Luccio, a young friend who’s being sucked into the ‘wrong crowd’ and who Zach is keen to prevent from making the mistakes he made himself. He’s a complex, emotional man, full of conflict and vulnerability. I usually like my characters to have firm goals, too, but the fact that he’s drifting is a consequence of the other conflicts I’ve given him.
And all this came from one stray memory that floated into my head …
is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.
Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.
Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta.
blurb and buy links:
The #1 bestseller is back with an uplifting, happy read that will raise your spirits and warm your heart!
This summer, sparks are flying on the island of Malta…
When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.
Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?
You will find Summer on a Sunny Island at:-