In our co-written work November Deadline, there’s quite the cast of characters, so a wide choice for my consideration. While I’ve a huge amount of affection for them all, I have to admit having a soft spot for Tinkerbell – something which seemed to be shared by those who read our tale during April’s A-Z challenge back in 2018.
There’s a couple of areas where I particularly relate to Tink. He’s a big fan of pubs, with a liking not just for the beer and the hearty fare on offer, but most especially for the convivial company and conversation. Some of my happiest times were spent in pubs, enjoying laughter and chat with friends and acquaintances both, exchanging banter over favoured sporting teams. And that’s another thing we share, a love of the fine game of rugby.
But then there’s the rest. An academic, Tink is entirely at home in the hallowed halls of Oxford University and his beloved Bodlian Library; a master planner and tactician, a warrior of old. And that’s before we consider the magic….
While I would have loved to share the academic experience with Tink – I haven’t. It’s a world I gaze upon from the outside with wistfulness. I’m an excellent organizer, but I could never plan a skirmish, let alone a battle or a war. So, it’s not Tink I most relate to – even though I’d like to.
I briefly consider Mike – Lady Michaela – for I empathised in a most heartfelt manner with her desire to live unshackled by the constraints and expectations of her family.
But in truth, that was all we had in common – for Mike’s assured demeanour, coming as it does from being a member of the landed gentry, is not something I recognise in myself. Looking at her with my NLP hat on, it’s a behaviour I’d be tempted to model. So, not Mike either – even though there’s aspects I’d clearly like to.
Though she was initially planned to be somewhat of a throwaway character, Juliet clung on with determination to become a key part of the cast. And I find it is with Juliet where I feel the greatest sense of affinity.
Juliet is a bit of an oddity when first we meet her. She’s the only female apprentice at Lady Michaela’s Manufactorium, doubtless unhappy at standing out yet further by being notoriously accident prone. Initially believed to be clumsiness, it later transpires that it’s her extremely volatile emotions bubbling over which are the problem.
Although Juliet’s physical appearance is that of a women in her late teens/early twenties, there’s aspects of typically teenage years in her behaviour. I have a visceral recall of that flip-flop between apparent maturity and overwhelming emotion, and the struggle to control which would manifest when. While not especially accident prone myself, I didn’t have the physical grace of female members of my family, despite being lighter and leaner. I remember feeling aggrieved at having gained such a reputation for something which was entirely outside of my control – I’m not entirely sure how much I sense the same in Juliet and how much I’m projecting.
Jack brings Juliet to Michaela’s Manufactorium, not only to give Juliet somewhere safe to live and learn a trade, but to provide her with someone to look up to, someone to learn from -a role model who could help her to formulate the life she might want to lead. While Juliet is an orphan and I am not, I strongly felt that absence of an that type of role model growing up. I knew the future life expected of me (one of marriage and babies) was not for me, but I knew no-one who demonstrated any recognisable alternatives nor – and as important – the path to finding one.
As someone born and brought up in the third world, I’ve always felt an outsider in my “home” country of the UK. And yet I was an outsider in the places where I felt at home. I have now reconciled myself to those feelings and while they remain, they don’t have the alienating power they once did. That sense of not belonging is strong in Juliet – the reason for which is mentioned briefly in November Deadline, but will be developed in later books.
With hindsight, I’m not sure which – if any – of these aspects were my contributions to the creation of Juliet. So, it wasn’t that I put myself into the story, as is commonly the way with writers. Rather that I recognise aspects of myself in her in the same way that I recognise those aspects of myself in the characters of books where I am simply the reader.
© Debra Carey, 2022