"Cade’s takes a dramatic turn after Elias’s tragedy. Can you tell us a little more about how you developed his character?"
There's a certain type of guy who makes a good romantic hero: good-looking (of course), ambitious but willing to set aside quality time for the woman he loves, passionate, principled and charming-- well, you know the drill. When I go into middle schools for Career Day-- amazingly, they still let me do that after The Kingdom of Childhood-- I hold up a copy of Twilight and talk about how the two romantic heroes, Edward and Jacob, are conflations of everything women stereotypically love about men. And on the surface, Cade-- the guy who loves my protagonist, Jill, in Heaven Should Fall-- is a guy like that, too.
But as the reader slowly discovers, a man like Cade-- one who feels things deeply, is driven to feel relevant in the world, and believes he is a notch above most people he meets-- is especially vulnerable when things don't go his way. He wants to feel in control of his world, and believes he deserves to. As he feels his influence slipping, the ability Jill once observed in him-- to "find his passion and follow the prize of it like a polestar"-- corrupts into a desperate determination to matter, at whatever cost.
And so the "dramatic" turn that Cade takes after a crisis strikes his family is not as jarring as it first appears. He's the same guy as ever, only angry now, and with his judgment clouded by grief. This is an aspect of characterization that has long fascinated me. No real human being is entirely good or entirely evil; each person has something they want-- out of life, or out of a particular situation-- and will act, sometimes in ways that conflict with the values they profess, in the service of that goal. That's not inconsistency-- that's humanity. And so while Cade spends most of the book dismissing his brother-in-law Dodge as an ignorant redneck, when Dodge provides him with a route to his goal, the desires of Cade's ego trump his opinion of the man.
To me, the more deeply conflicted the character, the easier they are to write. A sense of uncertainty and struggle is something I understand, while moral certainty can feel foreign and even false. Like Zach in The Kingdom of Childhood, I saw Cade as a man wrestling with the angel; it wasn't hard to get inside their heads, because in one way or another, I've been there, too. And I think that's what the writing gurus really mean when they say, "write what you know." Every time I sit down to start a new novel I must research places and people, hobbies, music and occupations, learning it all from scratch. But a protagonist who struggles between love and anger, one who means well but often stumbles-- ah. I write what I know.
Book Excerpt - Scavenger Hunt
It wasn’t long before we made the turn back into College Park. Cade and I lived in the dormitories on campus—he in a single room, me with a snooty roommate—but on the weekends he often crashed at the apartment of his friend Stan. Up until the previous year he and Stan had been roommates, but now Stan had his own place, at which he held frequent parties. He was generous in offering his futon—or a patch of carpet—to whoever couldn’t drive home.
About the Book
Alone since her mother’s death, Jill Wagner wants to eat, sleep and breathe Cade Olmstead when he bursts upon her life—golden, handsome and ambitious. Even putting college on hold feels like a minor sacrifice when she discovers she’s pregnant with Cade’s baby. But it won’t be the last sacrifice she’ll have to make.
Retreating to the Olmsteads’ New England farm seems sensible, if not ideal: Jill and Cade will regroup and welcome the baby, surrounded by Cade’s family. But the remote, ramshackle place already feels crowded. Cade’s mother tends to his ailing father, while Cade’s pious sister, her bigoted husband and their rowdy sons overrun the house. Only Cade’s brother, Elias, a combat veteran with a damaged spirit, gives Jill an ally amidst the chaos, along with a glimpse into his disturbing childhood. But his burden is heavy, and she alone cannot kindle his will to live.
The tragedy of Elias is like a killing frost, withering Cade in particular, transforming his idealism into bitterness and paranoia. Taking solace in caring for her newborn son, Jill looks up to find her golden boy is gone. In Cade’s place is a desperate man willing to endanger them all in the name of vengeance…unless Jill can find a way out.
About the Author
p/s: I'll post the book review later. Seems like this post is too long and I dont want you to get bored ;p