We are so happy to be welcoming Dinah and her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. Dinah chats to us about her main characters.
They say that a writer needs to fall in love with his or her characters, and I’ve discovered that can pitch you right into an emotional rollercoaster, in the way that a real love affair might. Take Emma, the second of my two main characters. Feisty and opinionated, but very loving, she was a delight to write. She has a temper, but I love her spirit, and her grief and anger at being separated from her mum, Lydia, and leaving Malaya, the country that she loves, is heartbreaking. As she says:
‘I imagined a fine line that ran halfway round the world. It was the invisible thread that stretched from west to east and back again; one end was attached to my mother’s heart and the other to mine. And I knew, whatever happened, that thread would never be broken.’
While Emma’s voice came in to my head straight away, it took longer to get to grips with Lydia. She’s sometimes misunderstood, but in some ways is a typical middle-class woman of the 1950s, when a wife was often under her husband’s control, and obliged to ask his permission about everything.
To make it worse, Lydia is a colonial wife just like my mother was. Not allowed to work and with not enough to do, through no fault of her own, Lydia, doesn’t turn to the increasingly early cocktail hour. Instead she sings, eventually in a night club, but she also makes her children’s clothes and her own. Lydia loves her children desperately, but trapped in a loveless marriage, she falls in love with Jack, and that costs her dearly, especially when she comes home to find her children gone, and is then faced with a hazardous journey through war- torn Malaya to find them.
Jack is an old-fashioned hero, a man’s man in many ways, yet he’s also sensitive, loving, and he knows exactly what Lydia needs. As I wrote, it was hard not to fall in love with him a little bit. He’s from a wealthy background, but is a tough character who lives his life outdoors, relishing the risks of managing a rubber plantation, and never knowing if, or when, he’ll be attacked by terrorists concealed in the jungle.
Alec, Lydia’s husband, like many men of that period, considers children to be women’s work. He’s only interested in sport and completely misunderstands his daughter Emma. While he does have a few redeeming features, his behaviour is pretty appalling and that leads to a devastating situation for Emma to have to deal with without her mother to protect her.
Some people love Lydia, others prefer Emma. I see it as my job to defend Lydia against those who don’t understand her, so yes, I do fall in love with some of my characters and I care about them very much, even the ones I love to loathe. It can be emotionally exhausting to be so deeply involved in their lives, at least until you begin another book. Then the next set of characters slip in to take their place in your heart, and it starts all over again.
The Separation is published by Penguin and is available in paperback and e-book.
The blog tour continues tomorrow at One More Page. Check out the blog tour banner for details of other stops on the tour.
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.