Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The joys of double-dipping by Cathy Ace

The Question: Many characters wander in and out of our stories. Do you have any favorites?

First of all, thanks to RJ Harlick and Brenda Chapman for holding down the fort here while I enjoyed a couple of weeks away from my keyboard! 

It’s good to come back to the sort of question that allows me to think about what I’ve been doing before I get back to doing what I’m about to do, which is to bury myself in writing until the New Year. Because I write two series of books, I have the chance to write about characters in two quite different ways, so here’s my two-part answer. 

Just boarding the ship a couple of weeks ago in Miami - yes, there's grass on the ship, and yes, the bottle of water is for ME!
My Cait Morgan Mysteries are set in a new location each time, so every book contains a unique cast of characters, as well as the ever-present Cait Morgan and Bud Anderson. With six books in this series in print, and two more already written, I admit I have found it difficult to leave some people behind at the end of each tale. Thus, I have developed a cunning plan…in book #9 (due in 2017) there’ll be three characters coming back from previous stories. Having played no more than bit-parts in earlier adventures, they’ll now have a chance to become more fully developed, and more significantly involved with Cait and Bud as they face another puzzling mystery. But I’m getting ahead of myself…as authors who are plotting works years in advance of publication often do. My apologies. 

If I think about the characters my readers already know from this series, I would say I have warmed to them all in different ways – including the corpses and the baddies. After all, I write the sort of plot-driven book where every character (sometimes even Bud and Cait themselves) have to be considered as possible suspects, and we usually discover that no one is snowy white, or telling the entire truth. Thus, I tend to work with shades of gray, rather than the black and white that might make me dislike some of my creations. In this series, of course I enjoy spending time with Cait herself – however infuriating she might become on occasion – but will also happily admit I find Bud’s calming, grounding presence to be a real treat.

My WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature a quartet of professional, softly-boiled female private eyes, and their “plus one” – Althea Twyst, an almost-octogenarian dowager duchess who has elected herself their fifth-wheel. Because each of these books is set in the general area of the Chellingworth ducal estate and the village of Anwen-by-Wye in Powys, Wales, most secondary characters will appear in most books. This approach allows for character development for a couple of dozen people from book to book: true ensemble pieces where lives and relationships can be followed as each tale unfolds. It’s a format I’m enjoying working with, and quite different from that which I use for my Cait Morgan Mysteries. 

In the second book in this series (The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer, out now in the UK, due in North America in February) I have introduced the militaristically well-organized Marjorie Pritchard, who runs pretty much every group in the village, and the physically imposing Tudor Evans, a local pub landlord obsessed by tradition and the man some consider the de facto “Mayor of Anwen”. It’s begun as a bit of a standoff, but sparks will fly in book #3, and by book #4 it looks like all-out war! As net curtains twitch, and gossip gathers momentum, the titled toffs at Chellingworth Hall, and the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency, have to stand back as the fur flies. It’s great fun to be able to re-visit the same people time and time again, and peep into how their lives are unfolding. 

Having the chance to work in two such different ways I find I’m able to keep spending time with my favorites and sometimes – just sometimes – I have the distinct pleasure of killing off the people who thoroughly deserve it!

Find out more about Cathy and her characters here:

Twitter: @AceCathy


RJ Harlick said...

I admire writers like you, Cathy, that can write two series at the same time with completely different characters and can keep them straight. Good post

Cathy Ace said...

Thanks RJ - I have a LOT of notes ;-)