Today it’s my pleasure to welcome author Cheryl Brooks to My Book Addiction. I hope you will join me in welcoming Cheryl here.
Hi there! I’m Cheryl Brooks, author of the Cat Star Chronicles series of futuristic romance, and Today I thought I would discuss character development, meaning how I choose my characters’ names and looks and how they come alive for me.
Generally speaking, my characters are composites. I might use a little quirk from one person, a mannerism from another, hair color from somewhere else and a name that is either made from scratch or a variation of a name I’ve heard. Since my Zetithian heroes are feline in many respects, I’ve tried to use feline-sounding names, but I’m running out of them—after all, there are just so many words for cat! So far I’ve used Cat (Slave), Leo (Warrior), Lynx (Outcast), and Manx (Fugitive), but in Rogue the two brothers looked like tigers, so I used variations of that word. Tychar (long form Tycharian) is a variation in spelling of tiger. Trag, which doesn’t sound feline at all, is actually a combination of tiger and dragon, and the long form, Tragonathon, is a spelling variation of a friend’s name.
In my current book, Fugitive, the heroine’s name, Drusilla, was suggested by a blog commenter, but her appearance and personality come from a friend who has auburn hair, a petite shape, and a tendency to mutter pithy comments under her breath. My friend is not a painter; that part I came up with on my own, as I did with Drusilla’s last name, Chevrault. I wanted it to sound sort of familiar, but vaguely French. I made this one up, intending to change it eventually, but it kind of grew on me, and since my character’s last names aren’t mentioned very often, I decided to stick with it.
When you write about aliens, your readers come to expect the offbeat names, but I try to keep them different enough that the reader won’t get them confused. The names usually evolve over the course of the writing; I’ll come up with a “working name” but later on, I might decide I don’t like the way it looks on the page and change a letter here and there. Sometimes I hit random keys and then go back and modify the name slightly to make it more pronounceable. In Fugitive, however, I took a different tack when it came to the names of the natives of Barada Seven, the planet on which the story takes place. In Baradan culture, names that are common to Earth have become popular, thus, the Baradans, who look like tall, skinny orange toads, have names like Lester and Roger. Because they have beautiful musical voices, I named some of them after famous singers, such as Dolly and Aretha.
I’ve used a few actors as the basis for my own characters, both in appearance and personality, but unless I were to tell you who it is, you probably wouldn’t recognize them. For example, to create Manx, the hero in Fugitive, I started with a young Jeff Goldblum, but after I’d made him alien and changed a few other things, he became a different person entirely. Jacinth, the heroine in Slave may have been female, but to create her character, I used a little bit of Han Solo, Captain Jack Sparrow, and John Creighton from Farscape. Some readers have spotted the Han Solo in her, but being female, it’s less obvious than if I were to use those traits in a male.
Even after I’ve given characters their appearance, a few basic personality traits, and a name, it isn’t until I’ve worked with them for a while that they truly come alive for me. I sometimes have to go back and alter some earlier passages when I discover that, “Oh, yeah! That’s why he acts or feels the way he does.” I’m not one of those writers who outline a character’s entire history prior to writing the book. I like to discover who they are as I go along. However, with the next book in the series, Hero, I had a head start because Trag, the brother who didn’t get the girl in Rogue, already had a distinct personality and appearance, so the chief task in writing his book was to make sure I didn’t alter him too much.
In choosing their looks, the aim is to keep them different from one another but still be recognizable as a member of a distinct species. Though the Zetithian men are all tall and lean with feline eyes and ears, Cat was the first to be created, and I gave him his long black hair and black eyes just because I thought he would look cool that way. With the subsequent heroes, I gave them coloring to match the type of cat I based them on, whether it be a lion, tiger, panther, or lynx.
As you can see, most of the time I’m playing by ear. It’s a trial and error process; a constant tweaking and adjusting until, like a sculptor working in clay, I get them the way I want them. Sometimes, however, they take on a life of their own and dictate to me the way they want to be written, and that’s the fun part!
FUGITIVE BY CHERYL BROOKS—IN STORES JANUARY 2010
When a Zetithian fugitive meets a beautiful Earth woman, their passion may cost them both their lives…
Manx is a Zetithian fugitive with a feline gene that gives him remarkable sexual powers. He has been in hiding in the remote jungles of Barada Seven ever since being marked for extermination by the violent Nedwuts.
Artist Drusilla arrives on Barada Seven, enticed only by the promise of finding a nature paradise there. But she discovers a wildlife she wasn’t expecting when she encounters Manx. Reckless with desire for the beautiful Earth woman, Manx risks his life to win her as his mate.
It’s only a matter of time until the Nedwuts find them, but it will take all of Manx and Drusilla’s passion, skill, and ingenuity to survive.
Cheryl Brooks is an Intensive Care Unit nurse by night and a romance writer by dayt. Previous books in The Cat Star Chronicles series include Slave, Warrior, Rogue and Outcast. Hero, book six, will be in stores August 2010. She is a member of the RWA and lives with her husband and sons in Bloomfield, Indiana. For more information, please visit http://cherylbrooksonline.com/
*Thanks to the awesome Danielle at Sourcebooks I’m thrilled to offer 2 copies of FUGITIVE to 2 lucky winners. US and Canada residents only please. In order to win you must comment on this blog post by Jan. 23rd. Good Luck!*