Thursday, October 20, 2011

HIGHLAND STORMS BLOG TOUR: Christina Courtenay on Creating Characters

Today I'm delighted to welcome Christina Courtenay as part of her Highland Storms blog tour. I asked Christina how she goes about creating characters. Find out how below along with a chance to win a copy...

Creating new characters, and especially heroes, is one of the best things about being an author for me.  It’s great fun to decide on their looks and personality, and I especially love choosing their names.  When I read, whether I like a story or not almost always hinges on whether I fall in love with the hero.  If I don’t, the author hasn’t done his/her job properly and I try to keep this in mind when creating my own heroes.  If I’m not in love with them myself, then no one else will be either.

Obviously, we don’t all have the same taste, but there are some traits a hero should definitely have – charisma (even if he’s not drop-dead gorgeous, there must be something about him that attracts you to him), intelligence, kindness and honesty.  Since I write historical heroes mostly, mine can be a bit arrogant and “alpha male” to fit in with the way men behaved in times past, but I never let them be vain or self-centred.  I also love it when they have a sense of humour and long hair.  A bit of stubble, a great physique and the ability to hold their own in a fight never comes amiss either.

All authors have their own way of creating characters.  With me, the hero always starts with a real person’s looks - I see an actor, singer or model who intrigues me, and suddenly I’ve cast him in a completely different role.  Usually a scene between him and the heroine springs into my mind and kick-starts the rest of the story.  Then in order to find further inspiration, I search for photos on the internet or in magazines of the person I’ve chosen as hero material, and pin them up on the wall.  It helps to find clips on YouTube as well, so that I can hear their voice, see their facial expressions, their smile, the way they walk etc.  Then I make up a personality that I think suits their looks (and the story) and in my imagination they become a fully formed character.

I always start with the hero since for me he is the main ingredient in the book, then I try to think who would be the perfect heroine for him.  To make things more interesting, I like to give my heroes girls who are the complete opposite of the type he’s always thought he preferred.  The heroine has to surprise him and stand up to him, even if she secretly fancies him – no doormats allowed.  Again, since I write historicals, my heroines have to conform to the way women would have behaved at the time, but more often than not I make them feisty and chafing against the restrictions they face.  They have to have the courage to stand up for themselves and not accept their fate without a fight.

The hero of Highland Storms, Brice, was based on a model/actor who appeared in several different music videos.  In each one, he only had a very small role to play, but he stood out despite not actually doing anything to steal the lime-light.  Brice is a bit like that – he has a father and brother who are flamboyantly handsome and charismatic, so he’s always thought of himself as nothing special in comparison and therefore stays in the background.  He’s wrong though, and I enjoyed making Brice discover that away from them, he could shine every bit as much as they do, but in his own way.

As for the heroine, Marsaili, the only thing I knew about her to begin with was that she had amazing hair.  Long (of course), wild and curly, and a very unusual colour which couldn’t help but make her stand out.  Then I realised this would make people – and especially men – stare at her, but that she didn’t like it.  And because authors like to put our characters through the wringer, I decided she’d also be very beautiful so that she’d be ogled even more, which she’d hate.  The rest of her character grew from there, as did her need for a guard – in this case a wonderful dog called Liath.

I won’t give anything else away, but here is a short synopsis of Highland Storms:-

Who can you trust?

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.
But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing.  He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?
Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her.  But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.
And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy.  Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …
Thank you so much for having me as your guest!

I promised Christina I would add my version of her hero in the style of the Choc Lit Blog Wednesday Hottie! I haven't decided on my version of Brice yet but check out my review next week to see who I pick. But for now, here is my version of Taro from The Scarlet Kimono, another of Christina's novels and one of my favourite reads this year with a delicious hero...

Celebrity chef - Jun Tanaka was my version of Taro
To win a signed copy of Christina's novel, Highland Storms, please tell us who (celebrity or otherwise) you would like to be your hero? Answers by 30th Oct.


  1. Joe McFadden

  2. Thanks for your comments!

    Rosie, there's something special about a man in a kilt, isn't there!

    Kasza - I like Alan Rickman too but haven't yet cast him as a hero, must do something about that :)

  3. Interesting post, Christina, and I like the way you choose your hero. Think I'll stick with my fictional one, Mr Rochester, as my answer!

  4. Hmm, I can't think of Mr. Rochester as anyone other than Toby Stephens now, after the TV adaptation, where I thought he was great! (Haven't seen the new film yet). But perhaps that's not a bad thing really :D

  5. Forget celebrities my best friend is my hero, she'll do anything for her friends, she makes an amazing cake and she's great at DIY.

  6. I am not entering the contest.. but I can't resist leaving a comment on this. Christina, I LOVE how you pick the looks of a real life heart throb and go from there. That's cool and not many authors do that.. I would like to read about a hero that looks like PAUL WALKER. He was in Fast and Furious, Eight Below, Into the Blue... (dreamy sigh)

  7. For me there is only one person and that would have to be Mr Darcy.

  8. Olly Murs would be my hero is is such a cheeky chappy x


  9. Peter Kay as he is so funny!