I’ve been told that all authors come to love their characters—that they become the Authors’ children. I’m no different. I love Maggie, despite what she put me through. She was the most difficult character to develop, and the one I spent the most time wrestling with. She didn’t talk to me throughout the day, like many authors recount of their characters, but she did tell me how she was supposed to react in her story. When I messed up a line, or sent her in the wrong direction, she let me know.
The first challenge for me was the easiest—determining what kind of personality she’d have. Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by strong, smart women. Maggie had to be clever—maybe not at the same level as Candace, but definitely clever. Of course, there are practical reasons for that. If it’s true that few readers want to read about idiotic characters, it’s truer still that few Authors want write them. I also wanted Maggie to be disciplined, but bullheaded, strong, yet vulnerable, and overly self-sufficient at times, having to learn to trust. The challenge, once I determined her attributes, was to create a character who could grow from the first page, and then put all of that in a teenage girl.
I have to admit, once I determined that my protagonist was female, I had a panic attack. I know very little about teenage girls. I don’t have children of my own, and I didn’t grow up with a sister, so I worried that I’d create a stereotypical teenaged girl that readers would reject. Worse still, I worried that I’d create a character that teenage girls, and the people who know them, wouldn’t believe. It’s crazy, each time I sell a book, my first thought is, “Gosh, I hope they like her.”
I didn’t base Maggie off of any particular person I know, but I did take nuances and attributes from several people and incorporate them into her. I’ll only talk about one for now. I made Maggie a swimmer because of one young woman, whom I dearly love. A former swimmer, and former student of mine, this particular “kid” impressed me with her drive and tenacity. I think athletes, especially those who compete in sports like swimming, have an internal fire that is developed from thousands of hours of training. They don’t get the limelight like quarterbacks, pitchers, or point guards, but they train nonetheless. I admire that tenacity, and it was a quality Maggie had to have.
Strong from the start—I didn’t want Maggie to be helpless until some metamorphosis changed her—those characters irritate me (and, no, I’m not naming any names). Yes, Maggie had to be strong from the start. I wanted her to be frustrating at times, and she is, but never annoying or sniveling. The reason why is simple: many of the people I love the most frustrate me, and I them, but that makes our connections stronger—it certainly keeps things interesting.
Over the months, I’ve had a number of readers comment on one aspect of Maggie they enjoy—the constant internal dialog. Honestly, it’s one of the things I enjoyed most while writing her. I didn’t start out writing Maggie that way, but I found “she” wasn’t happy until I did.
The other aspect of Maggie that I am delighted I settled on was her mixed Cuban and Irish heritage. I am fascinated by both cultures and the beauty of both peoples. Maggie definitely identifies with her Cuban heritage more than her Irish, but both are important. I don’t believe she would have been as strong a character without the influences of both, and I hope I’ve done them justice.
As I said before, it was a struggle to figure out exactly who I wanted Maggie to be, and now that the series has ended, I’m happier than ever that I stuck with it. This part of the story is over, sure, but I feel as though Maggie is out there, somewhere, with Gavin. Even if she only exists in the minds of a few readers, that makes me happy.