When I started writing The Rising, I had a very rough idea of where the story was going. I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea how I was going to make it happen. Getting from Point A to Point Z was going to take some planning.
The main character, Detective Ellie Saunders, was a thirty year-old woman with a bad habit of looking for love in a one-night stand. One of those one-night stands turns out to be a co-worker, Jesse Alvarez, a former vice cop with a gorgeous smile. To Ellie’s horror, Jesse is assigned to help with her case.
But as often happens with fictional characters, they have a mind of their own. Jesse was not only pushing himself into Ellie’s case, he was pushing himself into my novel! Jesse Alvarez was intended to be a very secondary character. A character’s whose only purpose was to illustrate Ellie’s spiraling out of control personal life.
So I gave him a few lines of dialogue. And then a few more. And then a couple more. And before I knew it, Jesse was more than Ellie’s former one-night stand. He was her partner. And trust me, I never intended for Ellie to have a partner. This was her story. I wanted her to face certain fears on her own. I wanted her to come to terms with her life, on her terms. But what was I to do? Every time I tried holding him back, he pushed himself right back in the scene.
And then I found myself, and Ellie, in a situation I wasn’t comfortable being in. Not only was Jesse taking over Ellie’s personal life, he was taking over the case. He was becoming her rescuer. Every scene where Ellie faced even a small amount of danger, it was Jesse to the rescue.
I wanted Ellie to be strong from the start. I wanted her to be clear-headed and independent. But I also wanted her to be vulnerable. In the book, she has a very tender spot for the little boy dubbed Johnny Doe. Yet, she forms a strong maternal protectiveness over the child. A mamma grizzly at its worst. In another aspect, she has a very real fear of facing the media, stemming from a childhood trauma. Once the “Johnny Doe” case goes public, the media is stirred into a feeding frenzy, forcing Ellie to deal with those fears. I purposely held Jesse back in these instances, forcing Ellie to step-up-to-the-plate and face the issues on her own.
When the time came for the final showdown between Ellie and the suspect, again, I left Jesse at home. Although he played an important role, to the case and in Ellie’s personal life—I wanted it to be all Ellie in the end. I wanted Ellie to save herself and not rely on a handsome partner with a gorgeous smile.
Yes, Jesse’s around in the end—but he’s not Ellie’s rescuer. She did that all by herself.
Lynn Chandler-Willis has worked in the corporate world (hated it!), the television news business (fun job) and the newspaper industry (not a fan of the word “apparently” and phrase “according to”). She keeps coming back to fiction because she likes making stuff up and you just can’t do that in the newspaper or television news business.
She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance to her kids and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.
She is the author of the best-selling true crime book, Unholy Covenant. Her debut novel, The Rising (Pelican Book Group, 2013) won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith Based Fiction and was a finalist for an INSPY award. In October 2013, she was the first woman in a ten-year span to be named winner of the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Novel Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel competition for her novel, Wink of an Eye. It will be released by Minotaur in Nov. 2014.