At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Friday, June 26, 2015

So Where Do You Get Your Characters?

The lead-up to my sequel's release continues and we shift to a common question I've received from a number of readers and students:

"How do you figure out your characters?"

That's a fair question. Given that, as P.D. James said, all fiction is somewhat autobiographical, one would expect there's some ordinary life crossover into fictional characters. Well, let's dive in:

Detective Cameron Ballack: As far as the name goes, this is a combination from two sources. Cameron is our son Joshua's middle name. Ballack is the surname of one of our favorite German soccer players, Michael Ballack, whose powerful leg brought Die Mannschaft many a goal. In temperament  Ballack turns out to be a combination of our son Joshua (for the brooding nature) and me (for the bizarre tendency to remember the smallest details).

Detective Tori Vaughan: Tori is carved out of Joshua's former home health nurse, Theresa Robinson. Like Tori in Litany of Secrets, Theresa got her nursing degree before going into the police force as a detective. Tori's personality is slightly different from Theresa's, but not by much, and there is still a lot of crossover--a determination that people not judge her for her working-class background, a supreme desire to overcome any barriers, and a devout Catholic faith.

Martin, Marie, and Jill Ballack: Without doubt, they would mirror myself, my wife Christy, and our daughter Lindsay. And the grave of Johann Christopher Ballack at the end represents that of our departed Jordan.

Other characters in minor roles:

Nicholas Panangiotis: The last name comes from a board member at the first school at which I served, but in terms of physical looks and action, Nicholas is meant to look like World Wrestling Entertainment star Dolph Ziggler. No kidding.

Marcus Curry: The lone black student at St. Basil's Seminary is much like former student Zach Hampton, an intelligent young man who knows how to stand alone and live life in an attraction manner. And be snarky at the right time.

Pastor Stuart: He is drawn from Rev. George Stulac, former pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church, who graciously and wonderfully officiated the funeral of our Jordan. George retired last year and is the ultimate example of humility and grace over a long season of ministry (thirty-three years at Memorial!).

Father Timothy Birchall: Tall, imposing, wild curly hair. And the name similarity. Yes, Father Timothy strikes me as someone like former WWE star Paul Burchill, shown here (although skip to the 1:37 mark to see him sooner)

Of course, the real question is, "Have any of your murder victims been like people in your past?"

And to that I say, no.

At least, not yet.

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