The Importance of Emotionally Charged Characters
I love books that make me cry. My true test of a book is if I can remember the characters’ names the day after I finish it. Usually, I remember the plot for a while, but if I don’t remember the character names, then I wasn’t all that affected by what I read. There are a few books that I could sit here and name the characters because I still remember them even years after reading them, but one stands out head and shoulders above the rest: Finding Zach by Rowan Speedwell.
Zach, much like my Aaron, endures unimaginable physical and psychological damage. He’s jaded and angry and has every right to be, but deep down his soul hasn’t been broken. He still has fight, and though he may not consciously realize it, he still has hope. Scarred, but still inherently beautiful, Zach opens up and takes a chance with David, the boy he’s loved all his life. Together, and with the help of his parents, they find a way to help Zach live again. He’ll never be the boy he was before his captivity, but he can find small ways every day to make things better.
The book isn’t about pain or misery, but recovery and finding that strength deep within yourself that you never knew you had.
It’s taken Aaron Downing a long time to find that strength, and deep in his heart he never believed he would find it. I won’t compare the depths of his psychological damage to that of Zach except to say that had they known each other, they might have found a great friendship in their commonalities. David and Spencer, however are completely different characters. David is older and more in control of his life while Spencer, like Aaron, is just starting out in the world. David looks at himself as Zach’s failed protector where Spencer feels on more equal footing with Aaron. He doesn’t look at Aaron as a china doll and that helps Aaron to find his footing and stand up for himself when the time comes.
Aaron and Zach are both strong, compelling characters because of their resilience and growth and what’s interesting about them is that neither story is driven on their orientation. There are no gay bashings, no acceptance issues, and no shame. Aaron’s shame stems from the belief that he killed his best friend by being gay, not because he is gay. It’s an interesting dynamic. They aren’t easy reads. It took me two years to write Aaron because I kept having to stop and put him away for a little while to keep my own emotional balance. That soft, broken voice in my ear talking about the monsters in the dark is so hard to take day after day. I also had to put Zach down each and every time I read it, and a quiet “Jesus”. Both at the compelling nature of Rowan’s writing, and about what I’d read.
I love Zach and I catch myself wondering how he is now that he’s graduated from college—that is the mark of an amazing, emotionally charged character. He’s not a real person, but in my heart he feels like one. When you want to pick up the phone and call a fictional character just to see how they’re doing, that’s a damn good character-driven novel and I take my hat off to Rowan Speedwell. I haven’t met an author yet who didn’t have a “I’d give my right arm to be able to write like…” author – and she is one of mine.
Compelling characters that haunt me:
Zach Tyler from Rowan Speedwell’s Finding Zach
Miles Caldwell from Rowan Speedwell’s as of yet unreleased novel
Link: None (yet)
Tyler Curtis from Zathyn Priest’s The Curtis Reincarnation
Daniel Halstrom from Rachel Haimowitz’s Anchored (Belonging #1)
Wren from Evangeline Anderson’s Slave Boy
Dae from J. M. Snyder’s Scarred
Lee from Lisa Henry’s The Island
Paul Mattling from Kele Moon’s Eden series
And of course:
Ethan Bryant from A House of Cards: Deconstructing Ethan
Jamie Mayfield from the Little Boy Lost series
Aaron Downing from Aaron
Three signed copies of Aaron are up for grabs – make sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway by October 15th: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/33044-aaron
About J. P. Barnaby
As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.
(Giveaway open to US residents only. If you’re outside of the US and would like a signed bookmark from Aaron, please request one from http://www.jpbarnaby.com/#bookmarks)
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