Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
The most common question I am asked about my books is how I create the characters of people I have never met. Because I have a framework of historical events, most often figuring out why a person acts as they do is key. Many times, I simply ask myself what I would do. But, the person’s interests and background also help determine their actions. Sometimes, I have to piece through small pieces of evidence to get to the larger story. Take for example, an aspect of the character of Caroline Lindemeyer Fogarty, my latest heroine. When I visited the Fogartyville Cemetery to see the gravesites there, I saw the grave of someone who becomes dear to Caroline (I won’t give the details here so as not to spoil the story). On that tombstone, I saw an excerpt from a poem that when I googled (God bless the Internet), I discovered was by a woman poet who lived many years before Caroline. Not a well know poet like Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, but a woman who would likely have only been read by someone who loved books, poetry in particular. From that piece of information, I determined that Caroline must have been a reader. Later, I found a modern newspaper article about Caroline who addressed a civic group in her late 90s and quoted a poem in her address. Confirmation I was on the right track. I embellished Caroline’s character to make her an avid reader from childhood and a fan of fairy tales, particularly of the Brothers Grimm. From there, I will work in Caroline’s disappointment as an adult to learn that life is not “happily ever after,” as she copes with a variety of tragic situations that I know happened to her. But, despite my efforts to make my book factually based, there is some angst involved in writing fiction about a character who died less than 25 years ago and who still has living descendents who likely knew her well. What if I make a mistake? What if I write something about her that is entirely out of character? Today, I interviewed two members of Caroline’s family, the grandson of her brother Emil and his wife. While neither of them knew Caroline, having only met her once, they knew her brother, Emil, well. When I asked them to tell me about Emil, the first thing that they said was he always had a book in his hand and that he was a storyteller, particularly favoring fairy tales like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or the Frog Prince. Eureka! If her brother was a reader and a lover of fairy tales, surely Caroline was too! It’s kind of eerie how the whole thing fits together, but because I believe that God is at the helm of this journey of writing, perhaps it is not so strange after all. Even in the littlest details, He cares about helping me. Caroline is going to figure that out as well.