When I began to write Is This Love? I had written a bio for my hero, Jed Cassius – because that’s where I generally start. Knowing the history of main characters provides not only character insight but gives me material to mine in terms of plot and the character’s likely emotional reaction to events. I knew that Jed had left the village of Middledip as a teen, shortly after Lyddie, the girl he was seeing, received a head injury in a hit-and-run accident, and I knew his connection to the driver of the car that hit her. I also knew that he’d returned to live locally as part of the retinue of a millionaire who lived in a big house with big fences. In the early stages, I didn’t trouble myself too much with what had happened between those two events – it seemed to me that it would emerge as I wrote.
Soon enough, I began to see that something life changing had happened in that period. Jed’s a pretty no-nonsense guy, he can handle himself, he hasn’t had many long-term relationships, he’s got an odd but lucrative job, he consorts with some unusual people. But, behind the humour and the willingness to meet life head-on, there’s something defensive about him, as if he’s always wary of losing what he’s got.
Does it happen to other writers that a character presents himself or herself and the writer has to work out what made him/her that way? It happened to me in Love & Freedom, too, when I realised that a secondary character, Ru, acted as he did because he was being bullied. Maybe I subconsciously base my characters on real people I’ve met, and then have to deduce what makes them as they are. I can think of someone Ru may be based on but Jed … I would have remembered meeting him. Trust me! Jed’s a touch mysterious and it’s not easy to see if he’s one of the good guys – but Jed’s hot.
Hotness aside, the explanation that dawned on me for Jed’s character traits was that, at sixteen, he dropped out of society. His parents split up, he was angry, his older stepbrother Manny was living in a squat, so Jed went and joined him. I do remember it once being explained to me how incredibly difficult it can be to find a way back if a person drops out from society, stays off authority’s radar, works in the grey market or turns to crime to survive. In this age of literacy and data, most of us leave footprints in electronic records in our daily lives and when we let those trails disappear, doors close behind us.
An address provides an identity. You need one in order to claim benefits or apply for courses, so not to have one can prove isolating. If you try and leave the grey market and take a legitimate job, the taxman may want to know where you’ve been and what you’ve been living on. Fellow squatters do not appreciate the squat being brought to the notice of officialdom. Living in a squat can mean a lot more than not paying rent. Hot water, electricity and all kinds of basics can be pretty hard to come by.
But once I realised this about Jed, his personality, that balance between nature and nurture that offers writers an endless permutation of characters to work with, sprang into focus. Jed never takes a hot bath for granted, he loves his apartment to look and smell clean, he’s capable of kicking someone off a chair if he thinks it’s the fastest way to deal with a situation, he’s particular about his personal hygiene. He’s built up a stash of money to guard against unemployment. He loves women who look clean, fresh, healthy and glowing.
And, happily for him, I send him Tamara Rix. That she’s the sister of Lyddie, his teen girl, and views him with suspicion – well, he has to work his way through that for himself.
His time in the squat made him resourceful.
Is This Love? can be purchased from Amazon (ISBN 978-1781890554) and has already been nominated for the Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award at the Festival of Romance (Bedford 8th-10th November 2013).
Sue, who won the award in 2011 with Love & Freedom, writes contemporary romantic fiction of sizzling love affairs, vibrant heroines and hot heroes. Known for developing unusual and meaningful themes, in Is This Love? Sue’s chosen to study the different types and qualities of love and how it’s affected by the needs of pivotal character, Lyddie.
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. As well as Love & Freedom winning the Best Romantic Read Award 2011, Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. She received three nominations at the Festival of Romance 2012, and is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner. She’s vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.
Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a competition judge and creative writing tutor.