Guest Post: R.J. Sullivan

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The Evolution of a Character

The birth, growth, and rebirth of Blue Shaefer

 

Yesterday on Sheila Deeth’s blog I conducted a fictional character interview with Fiona “Blue” Shaefer, the protagonist of my two novels Haunting Blue and its follow-up Virtual Blue. In a way, this article will cover the same story from my internal thought processes and perhaps offer some insight into the sometimes-uneasy symbiosis I share with the character.

Since the release of Haunting Blue three years ago, Blue Shaefer has gained many fans. Very vocal, passionate fans. As her creator, this makes me very happy. There are days when I wonder if the character has more fans than the author, and then I start thinking about something else for fear of learning the answer. Earlier this year, while wrapping up the draft of Virtual Blue, I let slip to one of those fans–also a beta reader–that Virtual Blue may be the last Blue Shaefer story.

She did not take the news well.

As I closed in on the finish of the novel, I’d convinced myself I’d done everything I could with the character. For one thing, as I stand here in my mid-40s, I’m a long way from the age of my cocksure, dynamic punk girl protagonist, certainly much more distant than I was when I penned the rough draft of her story in the mid 90s–myself a recent college graduate barely in his mid 20s, and like Blue, passionate and ready to set the world on fire with my stories.

Through a long story summarized as “life happens,” Haunting Blue and the character attached to it did not see publication for 15 years. So, even though most of my readership has only known Blue coming on three years, she and I have spent the better part of a decade and a half together.

She started out in the rough draft dating a computer geek in the mid 90s when the internet had first blossomed, listening to Concrete Blonde and Tori Amos on her Sony Discman (which played only one CD at a time–how did she survive?) and years before cell phones were mandatory accessories. Eventually in a mid-2000s rewrite, I gave her an MP3 player and cell phone, though I found a pretty easy way to destroy that phone when I needed to.

The overriding issue was obvious. It was a lot easier to write about a teenager at that time than it is today on the other side of 40. I don’t want to be *that* writer–we’ve all seen them–writing young adult characters aimed at young adults and missing the target entirely because the author barely remembers those years and the readers can tell.

So I planned a couple of years ago to conclude Blue’s story while at the same time symbolically pass the baton to another protagonist. A mature professional with the perspective and the resources of someone closer to the author’s experience. Virtual Blue was supposed to be that book. One way or the other, Virtual Blue marks the point where all upcoming plots begin to focus on paranormal investigator Rebecca Burton.

But it’s not as simple as that. Something happened while writing the latest chapters of Blue’s story. Between the changes to her life in Haunting Blue, and the results of her experiences in Virtual Blue, she emerges no longer the carefree, rebellious teenager she started out as fifteen years ago. She’s been scarred. She’s grown up.

I found myself unable to ignore this fact as I added the final polish on Virtual Blue. Perhaps it’s Blue herself saying “I’ve come this far, you can’t dump me off now.” Whatever it is, Blue intends to play a role on my future tales–not the Blue of Haunting Blue, but Blue as she is now.

And so as I wrapped Virtual Blue, I planted seeds for the future, but not the seeds I intended. Blue’s and Rebecca’s paths will cross again. And as I sit here today, six months since I submitted the draft to Virtual Blue, I find myself thinking that may even happen sooner than later.

I know this will make many of my devoted readers quite happy.

For those who are considering the adventures of Fiona Shaefer for the first time, the current edition of Haunting Blue is going out of print. But don’t worry, a new edition from Seventh Star is on tap for….well…as soon as possible. Not long.

I can’t tell you what to do, but the new edition will include some plot tweaks, one major correction, and new art by Bonnie Wasson. In the meantime, Virtual Blue was written as both a sequel and a very approachable standalone novel. You can read my evaluation of reading my books when I guest-blogged on Come Selaway Monday.

Thanks to Armand Rosamillia for letting me guest post today!

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4 responses »

  1. Pingback: Virtual Blue Virtual Book Tour 2013 (Reconstructed) | R.J. Sullivan Fiction

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