The Female Lead Character in the Rebecca Series and in the new release: A Fearful Thing
Over the years, when I have found myself speaking to students in their classrooms, or to adults at book-signing events, I have often been asked why my Rebecca Series features a woman as the lead character, given the fact that I am a man. My answer has always been that I have found women easier to know than men. Women and girls that I’ve known are more willing than men and boys to want to talk about serious subjects. (As a former college athlete and, later, high-school coach, I can talk about sports with the best of them, but often I’d rather not.)
So, from the start, it seemed obvious to me that I would do a better job of writing about a female as my centerpiece character than a male. And that connects to the fact that, whether in classrooms or at book signings, my answer to the question of whether or not I ever get “writer’s block” has always been No. “Rebecca always knows,” I say to my audience, “what to do or say next.”
That sounds a little odd to people, but it’s true. Think, for example, about the fact that, in “fiction time,” only a few seconds may pass between what is described or said in one sentence, and what is described or said in the next. But in actual time – the time I spend thinking about what comes next – days or weeks may pass before that next sentence is written. In that length of time, it always becomes pretty obvious to me what Rebecca or, in fact, any other character, wants to say or do.
During the writing of the fifth novel in the Rebecca Series, A Fearful Thing, my wife Linda said to me that the story had become “too scattered” and “too far from the mind of Rebecca.” And that’s why I took longer to produce this novel than any of the first four Rebecca stories: I went back to the point at which the “scatteredness” had begun, and simply rewrote everything from that point on. And that meant not only staying more focused – less scattered – it meant tying the story more closely to Rebecca. It meant flying her from her home in England to the center of the developing action: New York and Washington, D.C.
From that point on, very little happens without Rebecca’s “voice” being a part of the decisions and the subsequent actions. One of my favorite scenes in the new novel takes place in a private conversation between Rebecca and one of the two new major characters in this story, a woman named Marie Campbell. She asks Rebecca for a few minutes in private and, once there, out of the blue, says, “Rebecca, if Jack (McGriff) asks me to marry him, should I say Yes?”
After the laughter from both women subsides at this no-preamble question, Rebecca turns serious, honoring the weightiness of Marie’s question. The elements in Rebecca’s answer reveal the depth with which Rebecca views the components in a good marriage. The combination of humor and wisdom in this conversation stands as an island of informal, impromptu “relationship counseling” at its best, occurring, as it does, in the midst of profound mystery, desperate action, danger at its most lethal, and stomach-churning suspense. As one of the pre-publication reviewers wrote, “I was riveted by the breathtaking international intrigue and heartened by the moral depth of the story….”
While it is true that a majority of the major characters in this novel, as in all of the Rebecca novels, are men, it is to the mind of one woman that they continually turn for the answers they know they must have to survive… and to prevail.
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