I’m excited to welcome R. Michael Phillips, author of Between Good and Evil, to Readsalot today. He’s written a guest post about how the main protagonist, Sheriff Promise Flynn, came into this world
When I started the new series, Auburn Notch Mysteries, picking the setting was easy. This series was going to be set firmly in America, so what better place than New England. I spent many youthful years in New Hampshire, and those memories, scents, and sounds still linger with me as if I was just there yesterday. All those memories distilled down and became Auburn Notch, New Hampshire. It has a defined character that I needed only make a few minor creative adjustments to suit the series arc. One thing to remember, the setting can be as much a character as anyone in the book, but we’ll leave that explanation for another day. For now, lets get back to those characters.
Auburn Notch is home to a new sheriff. She’s tough, but vulnerable. To-the-point, but with a sarcastic bite when irked. Attractive, but modest. She has a dark past which she has every intention of outrunning. All of these traits are just the framework of a character. The easy part. Next comes fleshing out the character. There are a number of ways to do this. The backstory is important; as they lead the reader to the reasons behind the lingering conflicts your character is currently struggling with. Add in emotional stability, attitude, and moral compass, and you’ve pretty much got yourself a character. The general description (eyes, hair color, height, political affiliation, etc.) is a fun exercise and can be accomplished by filling out a dating site-like questionnaire.
With all that done, we come to the name. Nothing is more important than the name of your character. It’s as much a reflection of who they are as any of the other information you’ve compiled on them. Whether the protagonist, antagonist, or a tertiary character, the name can make or break them.
Think back over all the books you’re read. Odds are you won’t remember all the titles, but you will probably recall most of their main characters’ names. Stringfellow Hawke. Miss Marple. Jesse Stone. Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. Miss Havisham and Pip (Philip Pirrip). Atticus Finch. Sunny Randall. Jake Brigance. And the list goes on and on. These are some of my favorite characters. The names instantly conjure up the image of the characters I’ve composed in my head from all the stories I’ve read. I certainly don’t remember all the individual facts about them, but the names are enough to remind me I like them.
I’ve seen too many new authors try to distinguish their characters with names that are almost unpronounceable. As a result I stumble over the name every time it comes up in the story. The name actually becomes a distraction at this point. I did a search in my latest story for the main character’s name. It came up in some form 612 times over 224 pages. Just something to keep in mind.
So, how did I come up with the name for my new protagonist? It was a combination of things. Long before I came up with the idea for a new series I met a woman at a book-signing event for my British series. Her first name was Quality. “What a great name,” I blurted out. Putting aside the fact that she was a very attractive woman, and as accomplished as the name suggests, it was the name that really stuck with me. We talked a bit, exchanged cards, and went on our separate ways.
Three years later, when I was putting together the first book in the new series, that chance meeting at a book signing popped back into my head. If I was going to invent a new protagonist I wanted her name to be as much an introduction to her essence as any of the backstory that accompanies her without being a distraction. This is an ongoing series, so once the name is out in print there is no going back. I used a placeholder name as I began writing the story, all the while kicking around names for weeks, checking them on line on sites specializing in the meaning of names. Then it happened, I finally came up with one that worked. The last name is relatively common, which is good because it makes it familiar, and the first name is a familiar word but distinctive as a name. Perfect!
So that is how Sheriff Promise Flynn came into this world.
Title: Between Good and Evil
Author: R. Michael Phillips
Published: January 24, 2016
Publisher: Sunbury Press, Inc.
Genre: Crime – Mystery
~ Synopsis ~
Years after the Willis Asylum closed, the secrets of its past lingered in its decaying halls as a reminder to the good people of Auburn Notch—when Evil closes a door, he also opens a window. Sheriff Promise Flynn was new to the town, and she was about to find out some windows should never be opened.
Promise Flynn is an overly impulsive Metro Detective whose disregard for procedure finally resulted in her being shot and left for dead during an investigation. To repair her bruised ego and splintered confidence she abandons the callous dark alleys of Chicago to patrol the quiet, birch-lined streets of Auburn Notch—a favorite vacation spot of her youth. For two years everything was idyllic, until the body of a young girl found in the abandoned asylum outside of town awakens the insecurities she thought her new life would insulate her from.
As the new Sheriff she begins her investigation refusing to accept the similarities between the young woman’s death and her own case, oblivious to being unexpectedly recognized and penciled in at the top of a clever murderer’s To-Do list. Her internal struggle intensifies when a discredited crime reporter from the past suspiciously arrives in town to resurrect his threadbare reputation, along with an FBI agent chasing down a lead in a cold case. Both men quickly become entangled in Flynn’s investigation and her attempts to finally put her past to rest.
Flynn reluctantly accepts the murder of the young girl might be the work of the two men responsible for her hasty departure from Chicago, but Agent MacGregor insists the evidence points to a man he’s been chasing. As the rising current of her past threatens to pull her under, Flynn finds herself unprepared for option three.
~ About the Author ~
Michael is a classically trained artist turned mystery writer. By combining his creative talents with a passion for mysteries he conceived his first series—The Ernie Bisquets Mysteries. It introduced Ernie Bisquets, a retired London pickpocket who decided he was going to assist the London police with their most difficult cases—whether they want his help or not. Michael has completed 3 books in the series, and has plans for at least five additional books.
Michael travels a bit, especially to Great Britain, but also has a fondness for New England. He spent many winters in the shadow of the White Mountains, skiing and enjoying the beautiful countryside. Those fond memories are the backdrop now for the new Auburn Notch Mysteries being published by Sunbury Press. The main character is Sheriff Promise Flynn—an ex-metro detective who left a dark past and her big-city detective shield behind and moved to a small New England town. What follows is anything but therapeutic.
When he’s not painting or writing Michael is an avid antique collector, filling his current home—an 1894 Queen Ann Victorian he, his wife, and son are restoring—with an assortment of antiques from around the world. Michael also enjoys cooking, working in the garden, and playing in the yard with their two rescues, Beau and Pup.
~ Giveaway ~