It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Judy Higgins who tells us about...
To me, the best books have the best characters. There is one particular crime writer, quite prolific and with a large number of books to her credit, that I don’t like because the story is more about the mechanics of solving the crime. Her characters seem more like wooden sticks to me. I don’t much care if the crime gets solved if I don’t like the characters.
“Good heavens! I like this Zuela character,” a member of my critique group said to me one day. I like Zuela, too. She’s brazen, obstinate, brilliant, and vulnerable (although she’d never admit that she was vulnerable.) When an agent offered me a contract because he liked Unringing the Bell, his first order of business was to make me tone down Zuela. “But she’s based on a real person,” I protested. “Well, no one’s ever going to believe it,” he replied. “She’s too far out.” So I toned her down a bit. Reluctantly.
The other character in one of my books that’s partially based on a real person is Quincy Bruce in The Lady and that person happens to be me. I grew up in Georgia the same time as Quincy and I had the same dream as Quincy. My dream never came to fruition though. I didn’t have an Aunt Addy like Quincy, nor did I have her talent. (Although I thought I did)
Sometimes the best characters are those that just “walk into the story.” I was struggling with Unringing the Bell until, one day, Detective William Laskey walked in. I have no idea where he came from. I can’t even remember his sneaking in. One day, he was just there. When the protagonist, Jacob Gillis, said that Laskey was like a grizzly bear with a goose down heart, I knew Laskey was there to stay. Over the course of four books (Bucks County Mysteries) Laskey’s story will be revealed bit by bit.
And then there are those characters you just invent. Jacob Gillis in Unringing the Bell. I constructed from my imagination. Aunt Addy in The Lady was, I thought, just a construction from my imagination until one I realized that she had many of my grandmother’s attributes. While writing that part of the book where Quincy discovers secrets about Addy, I would become so depressed I could only write for a few minutes, and then I’d have to get up and go do something to forget. It was because I couldn’t imagine my grandmother having done what Quincy thinks Addy has done.
The character that I most love to hate is Aunt Mildred in “The Lady.” She’s an amalgamation of real people I knew growing up. A couple of people have accused her of being a “flat character,” but like Quincy says...
Great books have great characters! Why would anyone even care what happens with the plot or how beautiful the writing is, if they don’t love the characters, or hate them, or become annoyed with them, or want to give them a good shaking.
In the small town of Goose Bend, Pennsylvania, people don't forget. Especially something as sensational as 12-year-old Jacob Gillis burning down the town. Nineteen years later, Jacob returns, hoping for redemption. Instead, he finds himself entangled in a murder investigation. The prosecutor, taking advantage of Jacob's involvement with the victim's beautiful sister-in-law, threatens Jacob with loss of career and reputation if he doesn't play by his rules. Only by outwitting the prosecutor can Jacob save his future.
When Jacob Gillis was twelve years old, he burned down the town of Goose Bend, Pennsylvania. The fire didn’t actually consume the entire town – only two blocks of the four-block business section went up in flames – but when the folks in Goose Bend spoke of the incident, they persisted in saying that Jacob Gillis, abetted by his friend Charlie Garrett, burned down the town.
Jacob watched Laskey walk back to the Sequoia, his limp barely detectable, and for the thousandth time he wondered why his friend kept what had happened to his foot a secret. But there were some places Laskey didn’t go – formidable Laskey with his gruff manner and hard-muscled body. He was a private person and sometimes a grizzly bear, but he had a goose-down heart which he tried like heck to hide. But Jacob knew.
Laskey grasped the arms of his chair and pushed his feet hard against the floor to contain himself. For a brief moment, the thought had rushed through his head that a jail term for assaulting a DA would be worth enduring for the pleasure of smashing Inglehook’s head against his desk.
Laskey squared his shoulders, turned around, and looked Jacob in the eyes. “Don’t get yourself in a mess, Jake. Extrication isn’t always possible.” He started for the door.
“Give back the painting,” he called over his shoulder. “And Jake,” he paused and twisted around. “Don’t ever mistake pretty wrappings for the quality of the gift inside.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Judy Higgins was born in South Georgia where she grew up playing baseball, reading, and taking piano lessons. To pay for her lessons, she raised chickens and sold eggs to neighbors. She attended Mercer University for two years, and then Baylor University from which she graduated with a BA in German. She received her MA in German literature from The University of Michigan. After teaching German for several years, Judy decided to become a librarian and earned an MA in Library Science at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
Judy’s life took an exciting turn when she left her teaching job in Pennsylvania to be Head of Library at the Learning Center School of Qatar Foundation. She lived in Qatar for eight years, enjoying the experience of living in a different culture and traveling to exotic places during every vacation. Recently, she returned to the United States and lives in Lexington, KY. Judy has two children, Julia and Stephen, two children-in-law, Jim and Erin, and four grandchildren: Kyle, Jon, Karina, and Addy.
Judy’s first book, The Lady, was a finalist in the 2012 Amazon Break-out Novel Award. The first two novels of her Bucks County Mysteries, Unringing the Bell and Bride of the Wind are available March 1, 2018. The series is set in an imaginary small town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Call me Mara, the story of Ruth and Naomi, is scheduled for publication in March, 2019.
In addition to writing, Judy’s passions include travel, tennis, elephants, and playing the piano.
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