“After years spent away, Lady Evelyn is at long last back in her home city of London and she has returned with a rather controversial plan. The Carlisle Detective Agency is born, and it does not take long for the bodies… ahem, cases, to start piling up. With her friend and assistant Hugh, Evelyn embarks on the quest to solve the crimes. Yet the London she encounters is not the London of her coddled youth, and she is forced to learn that there is more to discover than the identity of a murderer. It isn’t only her city which reveals it is not what she always believed it to be, but the people she encounters as well. Secrets are revealed that have her thinking twice about everything she thought she knew about the society in which she grew up.
Evelyn’s love for her hard-won independence confronts her with yet another mystery, whether she is ready or willing to give up any of it for marriage. And then there is the arrival of rather a familiar face in London, one Daniel is none to pleased to see. Evelyn must find not one but two murderers, as well as make a decision that could determine her future. From the mansions of Mayfair to the dark alleys of Whitechapel, can Evelyn catch the killers before another life is taken?”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing a guest post from Malia Zaidi, author of the Lady Evelyn Mystery Series, as part of the blog tour for book five – The Quality of Mercy. The Quality of Mercy was published on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. This is a series I’m keen to get stuck into so I’m delighted to be able to share this fascinating post on the life of a character.
Over to Malia…
The Life of a Character
I consider myself a character driven reader, by which I mean, if the characters are intriguing, well developed, rounded enough, I can forgive a weak plot and still love the book. In some ways, this character focus accompanies me on my writing journey as well. Don’t get me wrong, I aim to create a gripping and well plotted story, but those stories are, in a sense, crafted by the characters and not the other way around. Their decisions, actions, thoughts and desires dictate how the story moves along instead of them bending towards the plot. This process works for me and it may not for other writers, there is no right or wrong. Here I’d like to discuss a little how certain characters take on a life of their own and in that way influence or even change how I go about writing my books.
A character who has been present in The Lady Evelyn Mysteries from the second book (A Darker Shore) onward is Hugh Lawrence. He appears when Evelyn and Daniel are in Amiens, France on a quest to find Daniel’s long lost brother. I had intended Hugh to play a small role, to be a side character in only one book, but as the story unfolded, throughout the long editing process, I came to grow quite fond of him. He seemed to me a figure I should not let go of so easily. As he became more fleshed out on the page, he took on real dimensions in my mind as well. I thought about his past and how his time serving as a somewhat unwilling soldier in the First World War shaped him; how so many men of his generation gave their lives but also so much of themselves to a bloody and miserable effort they often hardly understood. It opened up a door to exploring the world soldiers faced when they came home, the walking wounded, to a society that just wanted to forget and move on. Hugh seemed relevant to me even today, in a world in which those who suffer from trauma or mental illness are often misunderstood or even relegated to the background. I felt an affinity with him, though he and I are so different and I am really much more like Lady Evelyn (though I daresay she is a little more adventurous…;-) Hugh took on mannerisms in my mind, a specific way of walking, a little slouch, because he wants to go unnoticed, an unwillingness to meet one’s eye. In some ways, I feel as though he has yet to reveal certain parts to me, even as his inventor, just as he has kept much of himself private from the people he is beginning to trust. He needs time to let his story unfold, and I think, for this reason, I could not let him go and have included him in every subsequent Lady Evelyn novel.
I suspect many authors feel the same as I do when crafting characters. They come up with a name, a vague idea about who the person is or will be and then, as they begin to write, he or she becomes someone different, someone better or worse or far more complicated that first expected. We want our characters to feel real and believable and real people are complicated, real people do not fit into a box or an outline one can create. Developing characters is one of my greatest pleasures as a writer, and I hope you enjoy them all and the story presented in The Quality of Mercy!
A wonderful guest post – thank you, Malia. I am most certainly a character-driven reader myself. A good (or bad!) character can make or break a book for me!
The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi was published in the UK by BookBaby on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads |
Malia Zaidi is the author of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford.
Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.