Saturday, September 15, 2018

An Unexpected Guest


HANK: We all know people like this. They come into our lives, and we think: hi and goodbye. And then something happens, and they’re baaaaack.

Every author will tell you there’s no such thing as a secondary character. Say it with me: “A secondary character is the main character in his/her own life.”  But it’s not only a mantra, it’s the truth.

As our dear wonderful Annette Dashofy—hurray—found out first (or second?) hand.

Harry Adams’ Encore

I created the character of Harry Adams back in the second book of the Zoe Chambers series. I’d been exploring the theme of fathers, which for me meant exploring my own heart. I’d lost my dad to complications from Alzheimer’s a few years prior to starting this book. Enough time had passed that I could tackle the subject and the character with some clarity of thought. Or so I believed.

 
Harry is Pete Adams’ dad. For those unfamiliar with the series, Pete is the secondary protagonist who also happens to be the small-town chief of police. Pete’s sister has been their father’s primary caregiver, and in Lost Legacy (book #2), she drops him off on Pete’s doorstep, so she can have some downtime. In the process, Pete learns a lot about his dad and himself.

I knew from the start that Harry had Alzheimer’s, but I agonized over the character and the disease. Almost everyone has some experience with a family member or friend who suffers with this devastating illness. It’s ugly. 

I wanted to represent Alzheimer’s truthfully and accurately, but I also wanted to create a character whom readers would want to spend time with. As I wrote, I had no idea whether I’d found the right balance. However, Lost Legacy became the story of my heart, giving me a chance to revisit my dad. I selected quirks of his and instilled them in Harry, while leaving out the most difficult parts. I’ve always said, Harry is not my dad, but parts of my dad live on in Harry.

At the time, Harry Adams was to be a one-and-done character. I’d even contemplated having him die a hero in the end. To my surprise, my critique group fell madly in love with the old codger, leading me to realize I’d be in big trouble with my readers if I bumped him off. I also realized I must have succeeded in striking the balance I sought.

Harry got to live on, a tad worse for wear, but I still hadn’t planned to bring him back. Until my readers started demanding to know when Harry was going to show up again.

Four books later, I finally found a storyline that worked for him in Uneasy Prey (#6, released March of this year). I had Pete and his sister move their father into an assisted living facility where he constantly insisted people were being murdered. I liked the idea of a man with Alzheimer’s and a cop for a son, who would witness fellow residents passing away and immediately jump to wrong conclusions.

I’d intended to wrap up the thread and leave Harry to live happily offstage. Except, once again, my intentions didn’t work out. His story felt incomplete to me, so I knew it had to feel that way to my readers.

Which led me to Cry Wolf. What would happen, I wondered, if one of the deaths at Harry’s nursing home really did turn out to be murder? I loved the idea of Harry and his new friends “assisting” in a homicide investigation—and providing the key to solve the case.

Now that Harry’s had a taste of policework, will he be content to stay off the page? I have my doubts. As before, I don’t have plans for his return, but I suspect he’ll soon be hounding me for another chance to charm my readers.

For the writers out there, have you ever had a secondary character completely steal the show and demand a bigger part? And for the readers, what secondary characters have you fallen in love with and wish to see more of?

HANK: Well, Peter Hardesty in Truth Be Told. He gets SO much fan mail—right, Ramona?  And you’re not the only one.  (This potential suitor for Jane Ryland turned out to be incredibly winning and charming and attractive.  I love him, too, and we may see more of him.)

And may I say—hurray, Annette! Congratulations on your wild success. I truly, truly remember when you were just starting. And you have hit it out of the ballpark.

Okay, “secondary characters.”  I always wanted to write a book with Nancy’s pals Bess and George as the heroines. That’d work, right? Oh, whoa, Eeyore.

How about you, Reds and readers?





Rural Pennsylvania’s Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams is down an officer and has been dealing with extra shifts as well as a pair of bickering neighbors, one of whom owns a machete and isn’t afraid to use it. Golden Oaks Assisted Living is outside Pete’s jurisdiction, but a murder in the facility his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father calls home makes the case personal.

Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers has been itching for an opportunity to take the lead in a death investigation. She gets her chance when her boss is hospitalized and not only assigns her to the Golden Oaks homicide but puts her in charge of the county coroner’s office. As if she doesn’t have enough to handle, a long-lost, over-protective, older half-brother walks into her life threatening to drive a wedge between her and the man she loves.

A second dead body leads them to realize the case may have dark ties to a distant past…and if Zoe doesn’t untangle the web of lies, Pete will be the one to pay the ultimate price.


USA Today bestselling author Annette Dashofy has spent her entire life in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by cattle and horses. When she wasn’t roaming the family’s farm or playing in the barn, she could be found reading or writing. After high school, she spent five years as an EMT on the local ambulance service, dealing with everything from drunks passing out on the sidewalk to mangled bodies in car accidents. These days, she, her husband, and their spoiled cat, Kensi, live on property that was once part of her grandfather’s dairy. Her Zoe Chambers mysteries have received three nominations for the prestigious Agatha Award. Cry Wolf (September 2018 )is the seventh in the series.





58 comments:

  1. Annette, I love the idea of a real murder at Harry’s assisted living facility . . . I’m looking forward to reading “Cry Wolf.”

    Hank, I think a Bess and George story would be terrific. And I definitely hope we’ll see more of Peter . . . .

    Sometimes the secondary characters become such an integral part of the story [especially in a series] that it’s difficult to think of them as secondary characters. There are a slew of those “minor” characters in J.D. Robb’s “In Death” stories, but somehow they’ve managed to make themselves so important that they don’t feel like secondary characters at all . . . .

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    1. Joan, I'm almost embarrassed to admit I've never read the JD Robb books, but I swear I will get to them!

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    2. Thanks, Joan! I hope you enjoy Cry Wolf!

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  2. Welcome Annette. All your characters sound intriguing to me. And I really like secondary characters. The entire village of Three Pines comes first to mind. But that’s more of a rep group! We all have a troupe of secondary people in our lives, snd that is what givrs us continuity. I think I must think on this. Good morning from Chester city centre

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    1. Speaking of secondary characters, Ann has been visiting the lovely Cheshire town of Nantwich today, where my Duncan Kincaid's parents own a fictional book shop (there is a real book shop!), his sister Juliet is a builder, and his friend Ronnie Babcock is a detective on the Cheshire force. So that's four of my favorite secondary characters in one place.

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    2. O m g I forgot about that part. And I just reread that book a couple of months ago. Brain like Swiss cheese

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  3. Harry sounds charming, Annette, and a nice way to remember the good stuff about your own father.

    My favorite secondary character who became a main character has to be Deborah Crombie's Andy Monahan, who popped up as a random witness in I-forget-which book, then got his own story in "Sound of Broken Glass" and is now a recurring character. I don't think Deb meant for him to take that path, but she's certainly savvy enough to know a good character when she meets him. I keep pestering her to do a stand-alone with Ronnie Babcock and his aunt, or with Alan Ross from all the way back in "Now May You Weep." Those guys have have stayed with me, too.

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    1. Gigi, I assure you we will see more of Andy Monahan. I'd like to write the Ronnie Babcock and Alun Ross books, too. In which case I need to figure out how to write two books a year instead of one every two years...

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    2. Yes, please do! (No pressure, but that would be grand.)

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  4. These are such great ideas! Keep them coming! I am at the southern independent booksellers Association conference in Tampa… And running to an event! But more to come… happy Saturday!

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    1. Wish you were a bit closer. I am near Busch Gardens waving at you.

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    2. Waving back! And now at the airport, and headed home..eventually....

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  5. How about Nate in CJ Box's Joe Pickett series? He's almost too big to be considered secondary and I know some people would love for him to have his own book but I like him best with Joe. What a contrast!

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  6. Hi Annette! I, too, love Harry and he's the only fictional character I can think of who lives in an assisted living facility. That makes him even more of an armchair detective than Mycroft Holmes or Nero Wolfe. Congrats on your new book!

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    1. Thank you, Cathy! I think one of the things we all love about Harry is how he says exactly what's on his mind. No editing. And some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth even surprises me!

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  7. Welcome, Annette! I really need to get to the Zoe Chambers series as I can tell I will enjoy them.

    I always appreciate it when my favorite authors create such wonderful secondary characters that they end up coming back. As mentioned already, both Louise Penny and Deb are great at this. Margaret Maron did it consistently throughout her two series, too.

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    1. Thanks, Susan! And, yes, I love Louise and Margaret's secondary characters, too.

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    2. The ex-Sheriff of Absaroka County in the Walt Longmire series lives in an assisted care facility and plays a major part in the books.

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  8. Annette, My dad had Alzheimer's, too, and spent the last two years of his life on a memory-loss floor in assisted living. I remember many of the residents and their antics. I've used forms of dementia in several short stories.


    A secondary character I've always enjoyed is Jimmy Perez's Allison "Tosh" MacIntosh. I would love to read a book with Tosh as the main character.

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  9. I cannot WAIT to read this book! I wrote a murder into great uncle Abert's assisted living facility in Farmed and Dangerous. But in my Quaker Midwife series, qirky Bertie Winslow has a much bigger part than I had intended, so much that she took over the driver's seat in one of my Rose Carroll short stories. I know the new book will make a big splash, Annette!

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  10. Hi, Annette! I finally got a chance to read Uneasy Prey a couple of weeks ago, and also loved Pete's dad, so very happy to know he's returning for more mischief.

    One of my favorite secondary characters is in Rhys's Lady Georgie series. How can you not love Queenie?

    Ooh, Hank, now I want to know Eeyore's backstory. Why is he such a pill and downer? Who broke his little donkey heart?

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    1. Eeyore as the main character...that's a book I'd definitely read!

      And thank you, Karen. I'm glad you liked Uneasy Prey. That's another story of my heart.

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  11. Annette, I love the way readers (and your critique group) wouldn't let Harry go. Sometimes the secondary characters we create are so vivid, they walk onto the page and demand their stories continue. I've found that a delightful surprise in my own writing, and it feels like a gift when reading it in others' work.

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    1. Thanks, Julia. It is fun, isn't it?

      And P.S. It was great getting to chat with you at Bouchercon!

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  12. I’m glad you keep bringing Harry back. I like him and he adds something to the stories.

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    1. He does refuse to be ignored, Sandy. I'm glad you like him too!

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  13. You know those boxes? Comic relief character? Check. Love interest? Check. Dysfunctional family member(s)? Check. I hate books like that. If we are the stars of our lives, the 'secondary' people around us are what make our lives shine--and so, too, secondary characters. When an author breathes life into them, creates a family and a community around the main character, then the story leaps of the page into my heart--filled with surprises and delight. So many great examples already mentioned, but I'll add Julia's books--Miller's Kill is full of great characters. Martha Grimes. Anne Perry--I'm especially partial to her William & Hester Monk series--her latest Christmas book features Worm. Charles Todd.

    Congratulations on listening to your heart and your readers, Annette! I look forward to meeting Harry!

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  14. I think it's the secondary characters that give a book depth and they have always been one of the joys of writing a series for me. Gigi mentioned Andy Monahan (rock guitarist and my character Melody Talbot's sometime boyfriend) but I'd add a couple more. Rashid Kaleem, the Home Office pathologist who first appears in Necessary as Blood but is now a regular character, and my all time favorite--at least so far--Erika Rosenthal, who appeared as a walk on in A Finer End, then stuck around and demanded her own story, which we got in Where Memories Lie.

    Annette, my mom and my dad had dementia of slightly different sorts. I love the idea that you've given Harry parts of your dad, and that Harry gets to help solve the crime. Congratulations and I can't wait to read this book!

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    1. Thanks, Deborah. Yes, my mom had vascular dementia too. The same but different from Alzheimer's. And it was her experiences in an assisted living facility that I draw on for Cry Wolf.

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  15. I loved reading this, Annette -- Harry sounds like a great character. And what a lovely way to remember your dad. Also there's no risk that the character, though secondary, will be one-dimensional. In the book I'm finishing now (You'll Never Know, Dear), the protagonist's mother is one of those secondary characters who's trying to leap off the page and grab me by the throat so I'll tell her story. Maybe, in another book I will. Once I figure it out.

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    1. Oh, I can't wait to read it, Hallie!

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  16. I love that you brought Harry back, Annette! Sometimes those secondary characters just demand a repeat appearance, and who are we to argue with them? Congrats on the new book!

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  17. Annette, I’ve been reading your books from the beginning, and am delighted to welcome the latest into my life! Harry is someone that I definitely want to see more of.

    Like Hank and others I’d like to see a story with Nancy Drew’s friends Bess and George as the main characters. (And I’d like Nancy to show them more respect! It’s been decades since I read the books but I always felt that Nancy looked down on them.)

    And Julia, how about Russ’s mother playing a bigger role in Claire’s and Russ’s life after the baby comes? Maybe when the new parents are busy with the baby, she can throw herself into solving a cold case or two that Russ hasn’t been able to solve? Or maybe a current case? Whatever you do, don’t kill her off!

    Debs, I always love it when one of your minor characters ends up coming back in another book. I would still like to see more of Erika.

    Rhys, Queenie was just great in the latest Lady Georgie book!

    Although I don’t think we are meant to know more about him, I’d like to know Simon’s life story in the Bess Crawford books.

    DebRo

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    1. Me too! I want more of Simon's backstory. Do you think he and Bess will end up together?

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    2. Interesting question, Pat. I’m never sure if I want them to get together. In favor of them getting together, though, is the fact that they would each have an understanding of the more traumatic effects of war, having experienced it first hand.

      DebRo

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  18. Sometimes it is hard to decide who is really a secondary character. I'd like to know more about DCI Nelson in Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series, but I'm not sure he's secondary. Maybe Cathbad? Lisa Alber's series has one or two characters introduced and/or fleshed out in each book and does such a good job. I generally add them to my list of sympathetic characters I have to worry about in future books.

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    1. Isn’t it something how we readers end up worrying about characters?!

      DebRo

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  19. I would love to read about the adventures of Bess and George! Annette, I love the idea about parts of your dad living on in Harry. One of my characters has been known to have a bowl of vanilla ice cream every night after dinner, just like my maternal grandfather did. We're so lucky as writers that we get to remember our loved ones in this way. Congratulations on the new book!

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    1. Okay, now I'm really thinking about it.. and just had an idea. It's niche-y, though.. :-) .

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    2. Ingrid, my dad love chocolate milkshakes and so does Harry! There must be something about ice cream...

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  20. As a reader, I don't know about this concept of 'secondary characters'. For me, any character who is interesting to me within the story...well, I want more of them because they are part of the main character's world -- and that world is what I want to read about. So, secondary or whatever - keep the compelling characters coming!

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  21. Oh, Annette, I didn't get to meet you at Bouchercon, and I so wanted to. I started out great at getting to see old friends and meet new people, and then I got sick. Next time, for sure though. Your Zoe Chambers series is on my very short list of series I'm trying to get to, and I will. And, I love those secondary characters who become some integral to the books that the readers are insistent on their continuance and the authors are happy to comply. Just quickly coming to mind are Miss Gloria in Lucy's series, Cathbad in Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series, Julia's Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox, Debs' Melody Talbot and Doug Cullen and Andy Monahan, Rhys' Queenie and Georgie's father and Darcy's father and Princess Zamanska and Molly's friends who live across the street.

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    1. Kathy, YES, next time we must make a point to get together over lunch or dinner or coffee. Or drinks. Sorry you got sick.

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  22. I've always wanted to hear more from Anne and Lois in Julia's books. Love their humor and general personalities. Imagine what they could get up to together.

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  23. At he airport--and headed home--I always love to see you having a lovely time without me! Boarding now! See you all tomorrow!

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    1. Safe travels, Hank! I just got home myself and am catching up on everyone's fabulous comments!

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  24. In Jenn's series, the hat maker's gay couple friends, the library's Robin and his police chief girlfriend and Sully's sister, and the cupcake bakers' helpers. All the good series have great secondary characters. I'm blanking on names right now.

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  25. I am so sorry that I was AWOL today. I spent all day at a book festival followed by a 3-hour drive home. I'm glad you all kept the conversation going in my absence. And I'm really glad to hear so many of you love Harry too!

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  26. I love Harry. <3

    Tom Burns (my deputy coroner) did that to me. He was supposed to be a one-off who refused to leave. Now I rather like him. =)

    Mary/Liz

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  27. Annette,

    Personally, I'm delighted that Harry got to live another day and another and another :) The only time this happened to me was when my intended victim refused to die. First time, I ever had to throw out my outline.

    Thanks so much for stopping by,
    Jenn

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  28. Harry is such a charmer! He also creates such great dynamics for Pete and Zoe. <3

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