Today I’m delighted to be hosting a guest post by CS Savage about “Building Characters” as part of the blog blitz.
About this book…
His perfect woman will be his forever.
As an overworked NHS psychiatrist, Dr Clancy Mclean is used to dealing with mental illness. But she is stressed – trying to balance her career and the needs of her only child, Rowan. And she has her work cut out trying to keep her patients well. She knows two of them are psychotic, and becoming overwhelmed by their voices. If they act on them it could prove disastrous.
Rowan is troubled. Her boyfriend is abusive but she doesn’t want to end the relationship – she’s too scared of being lonely. Can she find someone else to keep her company?
And, as if Clancy doesn’t have enough to worry about, another of her patients is paranoid and convinced she is being stalked. Is it just a symptom of her mental illness?
Because there is a stalker on the prowl and he is getting closer to his victim with each passing day.
For me, character building is the most absorbing part of writing. Studying character and behaviour in life fascinates me, and I Iove creating characters for my novels. As I build the layers of a character, the person becomes visual and active in my mind. I can see them moving, their body language, their expressions. I have never based one of my characters on anyone in real life, but I do often borrow little bits of people, and mix them together to create someone new. My characters always have both strengths and flaws – just like real people.
The best thing about creating a character is that I feel like I have made a new friend. When I’m absorbed in a book, I often feel that I start to take on the persona of one of the main characters, and it’s the same when I am writing – almost like acting.
As a consultant psychiatrist, I often get asked if Clancy is an autobiographical character. I am sorry to have to say no. She is far more dedicated and hardworking than me. I’m not saying that I am not motivated by caring for patients, I most certainly am. I get enormous personal reward from working with and helping people. But for me, as a single mother, family has always had to come first.
Neither is Clancy based closely on any of my hardworking colleagues. Although, I have taken little pieces of many of them. I have so often watched colleagues struggle with the same motivations as her. Working in NHS mental health services is tough. Resources are tight – too tight. It’s such a horrible feeling, knowing that service users are being short changed, being provided with a service that you wouldn’t be happy with for your own family. People try to bridge the gap by sacrificing their personal lives. And people burn out.
I wanted Clancy to be a no nonsense head strong working class Northern woman, anti-establishment, who found it hard to fit into medical society. Yet very vulnerable beneath the tough exterior – she takes criticism badly, and feels guilty for everything. And she is isolated and lonely as she won’t let anyone else near her. Some of these traits resonate with me personally, but I’ll leave you guessing which ones.
Beth’s character has been formed in my mind for years. I have so many patients with a diagnosis of delusional disorder – where they believe, with one hundred percent conviction that something bizarre is happening either around them or to them. Common themes are that they are at the centre of a conspiracy, being followed or monitored, harassed or poisoned. They nearly always believe that they are at great risk of harm, will have reported to the police on numerous occasions. But no-one wants to listen. Eventually they find someone who is willing to listen to them – the downside is that it’s a psychiatrist.
Sometimes people can be provoked into being very hostile and aggressive – wouldn’t you be if you were absolutely certain that someone was trying to kill you? Yet, far more often, I am struck by how reasonable people are – they sit and tell you their stories and even tolerate it when you try and persuade them they are mistaken, mentally ill. It is patients like these that inspired me to write Beth.
And Rowan? Well, in my work, I meet many troubled youngsters. Troubled by school, home, their looks, how thin (or fat) they are. I am not alone in blaming social media / facebook for making things so much more difficult for young people today. They all seem to think they are in competition to be the most popular, most successful, most beautiful. And so many of them think they are failing. Yet they completely believe everything that their ‘friends’ post about their ‘wonderful’ lives.
From a broken family, and with a mother who has focussed too much on her work, Rowan has low self-esteem and struggles to evaluate her self-worth other than by comparing herself to others. This makes her vulnerable, both to using drugs, and getting into abusive relationships with men. Naïve maybe… but so many young people are. And insecurity will make them grab at straws.
I hope you enjoy reading Lead Me Home as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Thanks for reading!
Meet the author…
CS Savage is a psychiatrist, and a life long fan of mystery/suspense and crime fiction.
She works and lives in South London with her family and two dogs, but spends as much time as she can in her Lake District retreat.
She followed her life long ambition to write two years ago, and is an alumni of the Faber academy.
Lead Me Home is her debut novel, and she is currently working on the sequel.