February 2010

Character study

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February 2010

Character study

Feature by
February 2010

Character study

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In this feature exclusive to, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For February's author forum, BookPage brought together Ken Bruen, John Hart, Lisa Patton and Hank Phillippi Ryan to ask: What literary character do you find most memorable, and why?

Tom Piccirilli’s The Fever Kill has my favourite character in mystery today. Crease has been beaten, jailed and thrown out of the wonderful named town of Hangtree. His father was the sheriff, ending his career in disgrace.

Crease has gone undercover and been under the radar for so long, he’s not sure if he’s a cop or mobbed up guy. This leads to some amazing pieces of writing as he struggles with the conflict. And Crease doesn’t have to go looking for trouble. He’s no sooner back in town than he impregnates his wild psychos boss’s girlfriend.

Crease is a continually fascinating character, his search for the killer of a little girl, who might well be his own father, his having to stay one step ahead of the insane boss and just about every inhabitant of the town who seem to want him dead. I’ve never quite read a character who literally burns with the fever that Crease does.

Piccirilli has a wicked sense of humour and the absurd and Crease reflects it at every turn. That the novel is beautifully written makes you yearn for more of Crease.

Ken Bruen’s hard-boiled crime fiction has made him well known among mystery novelists and a favorite of our Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, who has reviewed many of Bruen’s books. Find out more on his website.

I can't possibly answer that question as it regards all books I've ever read, but in recent novels, I'm going to go with Ignatius Perrish, the protagonist in Joe Hill's new novel, Horns. Ignatius, "Ig" as he is known, wakes one day to find that he can't remember what happened the night before, only that whatever it was, it was bad. To complicate matters, he seems to have sprouted horns while he slept, horns and the ability to hear people's deepest, darkest secrets. I love conflicted characters, and how Ig chooses to use his new power makes him one of the most intriguing people I've ever met. Will he run from his new reality or embrace it? What happened the night before, and just what has he become? Trust me, the devil is in the details.

Since his debut in 2006, John Hart has become known for his compelling legal thrillers. Find out more on his website  or read BookPage reviews of Hart’s work. Don't miss our Meet the Author feature with Joe Hill, coming in March.

I’m not sure that’s she’s the most intriguing but Lily Owens, the protagonist from The Secret Life of Bees, certainly comes close. She’s feisty. She’s strong-willed and above all determined. With a dauntlessness remarkable for a 14-year-old, Lily resolves to escape her abusive father. Tracking down any link at all about her deceased mother is Lily’s motivation to leave her hostile home life behind. Lily gains strength by watching Rosaleen, her black nanny, confront a group of racist white men. After landing in jail, Rosaleen escapes with the help of young Lily! I loved Lily from the first chapter when we learn that she can’t bring herself to call her opprobrious father “daddy” and instead calls him by his first name, T. Ray.  With sheer determination to take care of herself, and at such a young age, Lily Owens has my fondest admiration.

Lisa Patton’s debut, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, hit shelves in September. Read the BookPage review here. For more information, see her website.

Most intriguing character? Well. I’ll confess. In college, while other girls were mooning over rock stars, I was in love with Henry V. I met him in Shakespeare’s Henry IV pt 1, and followed him, swooning, through his own play. Thinking back on that—turns out he had all of  the characteristics of the classic compelling hero: Flawed at the beginning, dashing and impetuous. But brilliant, and clearly destined for gory. Romantic? Sensitive? Oh yes, remember the scene where he first meets Katherine of Aragon—the King of England is almost shy. And when the time came for him to prove his mettle in the glorious battle to save his nation—outnumbered five to one!–who doesn’t still well up at bit at the depth and soul and of his St. Crispin’s Day speech?

Thriller writer and award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate. Along with her 26 EMMYs, she has won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson. Visit her website.

Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.

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