It will come as no surprise that the first character to be created in my mind was Jack Robson. Originally, Jack was going to be an inspector. But it soon became apparent that he needed to be slightly more senior, because of the level of involvement he would have in the Arcam investigation. Thus, ‘DCI Robson’ was born …
I suppose Jack was quite easy to ‘build’. He’s not based on anyone in particular, but is more an accumulation of various character traits - First and foremost, I wanted Jack to be a good man. I wanted him to be strong, perhaps even tough; but not in the stereotypical sense perhaps. It seemed important to me to be able to show vulnerability, to make Robson believable.
I don’t know if it’s because I am a father of young children, but it seemed obvious to make Jack a father, in order to ensure his relatability for readers. This eventually evolved into the back story regarding his late wife, Isabelle.
Trying to put myself in his place, that of a single father, was not particularly comfortable. But I think it enabled there to be quite an interesting dimension to his relationship with Emma Wilson.
I was keen to incorporate some degree of romance in the story, given Jack’s sad past. I also wanted a strong detective partner for him, who also possessed a high level of intelligence and a personality that complimented Jack’s foibles.
Enter the remarkable Inspector Emma Wilson, of Somerset CID.
Emma is an attractive young woman and a fast-tracked high flyer in the force. But she soon proves to Robson that she isn’t one of the ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ new breed of recruits. Wilson has common sense and is street-wise.
These two main characters were really a product of how I wanted the tale to develop. Others, such as Superintendent Thorpe and Sir Geoffrey Charlesworth were also conjured in my mind. Although, when I think of Thorpe, I remember a grumpy, brusque college lecturer I once had. Perhaps I’ve also met someone like Sir Geoffrey before also.
Jonny Searle was based on a man I saw drinking at the Ship Inn at Porlock Weir, while I was still writing the first draft. He looked, to me anyway, like a typical man of the sea. He had an unassuming ruggedness and I couldn’t help noticing his rather large hands. He also seemed quite jolly and like he enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. (Perhaps the latter characteristic made its way into Jacob Miller).
I do believe the name of Jonny’s boat, Orinoco, came from the Inn also – from a picture on the wall if I recall correctly.
The core characters were Jack, Emma, Sir Geoffrey and perhaps Thorpe. The other characters were developed around this core group, out of necessity as the story developed. I think I probably found the process of developing characters as equally rewarding as developing the story. After all, what could be more creative than producing new human beings!
I have been delighted by the feedback I’ve received so far, regarding Robson and Wilson in particular. I very much hope that I do these characters justice in book number two!