For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been reading Kevin Sands’ BLACKTHORN KEY series. Although his books are Middle Grade and mine tends more toward the Young Adult sector, there are a lot of similarities, and I think that’s what’s drawing me to that awesome series of books. One of the things I like is Sands’ use of puzzles and encryption. He does a great job of using those puzzles as a secondary story line, so no matter what else is going on in the story, I’m still wondering, how am I going to solve that puzzle?
But then there is also the way he introduces his characters to us. Writers get all sorts of conflicting advice about how much you should describe your characters’ appearance, and how you tell the reader about their personalities and background. In the end, this is all down to the writer to decide, and not everyone is going to like his or her decision. As you may know, I have published my first book, UNDERCURRENT, and I certainly did what I wanted in that book.
The other similarity between Sands’ awesome books and mine is how we learn about his protagonists through their dialog. You might think this crazy, but I built my mental images of Christopher Rowe and Thomas Bailey mostly on their dialog. I don’t know how this works, but for me… it does.
BLACKTHORN KEY’s Christopher is methodical, careful, and precise, so I surmise that his appearance is the same way. His hair is neat, his apothecary sash is always stocked properly, his colors match, and his clothes are clean and in good repair. To me, his face is clean, he is generally happy, and he has sandy brown hair.
Thomas from BLACKTHORN KEY is a little less likely to plan things out, is more likely to stumble over something in the road, and perhaps is a bit less neat and tidy, has messy dark hair, and is always looking for something that he’s misplaced. Now, Christopher is the star of the show in the Blackthorn series, but I love Thomas. He also has the wry sense of humor that I love. Maybe that should be humour, since these boys are from England.
Anyway, let me show you what I mean with this clip from book three of the Blackthorn series, THE ASSASSIN’S CURSE. To set this up for you, Christopher, at the request of King Charles II, is posing as a nobleman—The Baron of Chillingham—in order to protect a member of the British royal family. Thomas is serving as the baron’s personal guard. One of the things the baron is treated to is the opportunity to visit the Louvre (obviously in Paris now), French King Louis’s royal residence, and witness the King as he is awakened for the day. Here’s Thomas’s reaction to this great honor that is being shown to Christopher:
“Was it exciting, watching the king wake, monsieur?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I (Christopher) said.
“I want to hear everything, monsieur. Tell me what he did first.”
“I’d really rather not.”
“Did he open his eyes? Did he stretch? Did he yawn? Tell me he yawned.”
“Will you stop already.”
Tom looked wistful. “I wish I could watch a king sit up.”
“Are you going to be like this all day?”
“This is France, monsieur,” he (Thomas) said. “I can be as rude to you as I like.”
Thomas is just like my character Destyn Albright, who is always there to remind my lead protagonist Phelan Maxwell that he has his back, he can count on him for whatever he needs, and that should his ever get too full of himself, that Destyn will do everything he can to keep him grounded. But then, on page 221 of ASSASSIN’S CURSE, there was a passage that sealed the deal for me. There is the statement, “Tom loved strawberries.” Now let me share something from my book UNDERCURRENT soon after Phelan meets Destyn:
Destyn is sitting across from me at the breakfast table, still in the clothes he slept in.
“Hey, Maxie. Do you like strawberries?”
“Maxie? Am I Maxie now?”
“Short for Maxwell. Y’know?”
“Yeah, I figured that out.” He shrugs his shoulders and looks at me, waiting for me to say something else. Oh yeah. “Yes, I like strawberries.”
“Man, I’d like to have me some strawberries right now. Even if they were in the form of some sort of—oh, I don’t know—jelly or something.”
“Wha . . . Oh.” I pass the jelly to Destyn, and he smiles a goofy smile. “You know there are easier ways to ask for the jelly, right?”
He feigns a contemplative look. “I do know that.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of these books enough that you might check out the BLACKTHORN KEY series, or maybe even UNDERCURRENT. You can find all of this in Amazon of course. Like if you like, comment if you’re in the mood. Great hearing from you all!