I first met Jim Jackson several years ago through the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and he talked me into being the president of the online SinC chapter. (He’s very good at that!) It’s been a great experience for me, so I’m glad he was so persuasive. Here’s a new post about his Seamus McCree series and his new book, Hijacked Legacy.

The first novel in a series introduces readers to the main character (Seamus McCree in my case) and one or more secondary characters. I’m sure authors who plot their stories before writing them have a process to select their cast of characters before they write their first words. I am a pantser (aka organic writer, aka discovery writer, aka one who has no clue where the story is going or who will be in it until they appear on the page).

In the first Seamus McCree novel, characters introduced themselves into a scene as I drafted it. When I need a character for a scene in a subsequent series novel, my first response is to perform a quick casting call. Do I have any previous characters who fit the current scene (age, sex, profession, location)? If so, I hire them to enter stage right, make sure they receive an introduction to remind readers where they last met, and then they are free to perform their part of the story.

If no previous character fits the bill, I create a new one. When I think it’s a limited role, they may not get a name. They’re known as the gas station attendant or the old man carrying a cane. With expected larger roles, they get a first and (usually) last name. Great in theory, but as I wrote my second Seamus McCree novel, I realized I needed a series bible to capture character names and businesses (both real and imagined). Now, when a new character enters a story, I enter them in the series bible. I have over 250 named characters in the bible, of which almost 20% are dead! (I use red type to indicate the character is no longer alive.)

I’ve found my characters are not always reliable. I create them for a purpose, and they decide they have a different objective. They let me know who they think they are, what motivates them. Dang, if they aren’t right nine times out of ten. It’s my subconscious correcting errors and part of my process of being a pantser.

At the end of my first draft for each novel, I invite all the characters to a cast party. It’s more like a culling party. I evaluate each one’s performance in that story. Must they be included to tell this story? If not, out they go. I merge two characters if one could cover both roles—preference goes to a previously introduced character.

Next, I review all the new characters’ names. Are they too similar to another character? Did I get in a rut and everyone’s first name starts with one letter or ends in a diminutive form? Occasionally, one character renames another. I have an Iron County, Michigan sheriff’s officer who walked with a hitch in his step. Another character nicknamed him “Tex” because he reminded her of characters portrayed in Westerns. The name stuck, and now all the characters call him Tex. When I looked up what his real name was in the bible, I discovered he never got one!

After a few books in the series, readers have favorite characters they want to see return. In the first two novels, Seamus lived in Cincinnati, was a divorced father bringing up his college-aged son, Paddy, who had gotten into trouble as a teenager hacking into the Pentagon’s personnel website. His darts-paying mother (Mom) was institutionalized because she did not speak. We knew little of his ex-wife and nothing of his estranged sister.

In the next five novels and two novellas, readers became fascinated by Mom as she regained her voice and independence; enjoyed Paddy and his relationship with his father; and were captivated by Paddy’s daughter, Megan, who has a special relationship with her Grandpa Seamus. They’ve learned more about Seamus’s ex-wife and estranged sister and discovered he also has a half-sister.

But there was little room in Hijacked Legacy’s story for the entire family to participate. Paddy and the half-sister have major roles, but I needed to let readers know what’s going on with their favorites without slowing the story.

JD Robb in her Payback in Death, the 57th of her series, has her main character, Lt. Eve Dallas, remark to herself about the wide variety of a victim’s wife’s friends, and then spent a little time reflecting on her own varied friendships. It momentarily slowed the action, but reminded her readers of the many secondary characters they weren’t enjoying in this story, but who might show up in the next.

I didn’t have to go to those lengths. Early on, readers see a quick interaction between Seamus and Megan, which lets them know they still adore each other. And near the end, Seamus’s quick reflection about how well a family weekend together had gone gives a brief glimpse into the other family members.

Do you have favorite series that you return to as much for the secondary characters as the main character?

Hijacked Legacy ( A Seamus McCree Novel)    What you don’t know can kill you.

The Happy Reaper, notorious for his chilling efficiency and “Results Guaranteed” calling card, escapes prison. Instead of killing Seamus McCree on sight, he offers a diabolical bargain with a heart-stopping proviso. To live, Seamus must help the Happy Reaper find and eliminate the upstart impostor who’s trashing the assassin’s reputation. And Seamus must act quickly. Should the Happy Reaper’s bad heart give out or any harm come to him, the criminal underworld will wreak carnage on Seamus . . . and his loved ones. Can Seamus outsmart the impostor and appease the Happy Reaper without staining his soul with blood? The only thing Seamus knows for sure is that time is running out for him and his family.



For up-to-date buy links, go to my website: https://jamesmjackson.com

For Social Media connections,

Facebook Personal Page: https://www.facebook.com/james.m.jackson.author

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063463330059