Creating characters for our books can be difficult, but it can also be fun. My main characters tend to create themselves long before I’ve started writing. It’s the secondary characters that give me the most fun and pleasure as I often base them on people I know – or, at least, take the most interesting or amusing characteristics from a number of them and stitch them together to form one appealing member of the cast. One of my favourite secondary characters is my grandfather, who often seems to creep into my books in one way or another. The first time I used him was in ‘When Tomorrow Comes’. He appeared as Hildie’s miner husband, Tommy Thompson.
In real life he was John Peel Richardson, a hard-working miner who had fought in the First World War, when he was gassed, blown up and shell-shocked. He was sent back to England and expected to die, but he was a survivor. Just a small, quiet, gentle man who liked to read westerns and didn’t go out to the pub every Sunday like the rest of the men who spent their working lives digging for coal underground. He never took a day off work and never got involved in any argument with the females in the house – his wife Polly, his daughters Ruby and Edith – and me. His well-known response to most things was: ‘I’m sayin’ nowt.’
While recuperating in the hospital during the war, having gone through the Battle of the Somme, he was shown how to crochet and I am proud to say that I have his lovely work of a hundred years ago. He tried to enlist for WW2 but was too old and was thus given the job of Special Constable. He died at the age of 79 and still, to this day, my memories of him are strong. Never having known my father, John Peel aka Jack, was a father-figure to me. In the book he, playing the part of Tommy, has an affair with Florrie, the next-door neighbour. I hope he will forgive me for putting a little spice into his life.
If you have interesting people in your life you can never be short of character material, but best not to show them too clearly, which I did with one of my great-aunts in ‘The Glory Girls’…but that’s another story.