How My Characters Found Me
by Andrea K. Stein
Readers often ask me how I find and develop characters. I don’t – they find me. And the most amazing part is they come with their own swashbuckling tales.
My hero in Fortune’s Horizon, the first in my series of romance on the high seas, came to me while I was delivering yachts out of Charleston Harbor. One night over beers with a Charlestonian sailor at City Marina, I heard an incredible story about blockade-runners during the Civil War.
He said they would anchor near the very bar where we sat, which back then was part of a cotton warehouse. After running goods, including supplies for the Confederate Army, through the Union blockade, they would cram their sleek ships with bales of cotton for the run back out.
Heading back to Nassau, or Bermuda, they would off-load cotton to ships bound for England. Huge syndicates owned many of the blockade running steamships and would re-stock them with goods and coal to fuel their engines.
But why take all that risk? Each run in and out of ports in the South could net $1 million in 1860s money. That would be about $63 million in today’s dollars.
The British government never publicly supported the Confederate cause, but tacitly allowed the syndicates to operate in England where many of the ships were built, as well as in waters controlled by the Royal Navy.
After some research on my end as well as in London, where my British delivery captain boss went to the Admiralty to do some digging, we came up with the perfect hero for my series. Captain Jack Roberts was a British post captain on half pay from the Royal Navy. Since England was not at war, she laid off approximately 210 of her 250 post captains.
Mostly battled seasoned, a good number of those men ran the Southern blockade making fortunes for the syndicates as well as themselves, if they were enterprising, and lucky.
The most interesting thing about Captain Roberts is he ran the blockade under an assumed name, because he was the third son of an English earl, and he didn’t want to embarrass his family. So, as a romantic hero, this character kept getting better and better.
In the first entry in the series, he tangles with a woman spy who sneaks aboard his ship and infuriates him. Of course, he marries her.
For the sequel, I found another spiral of adventures Captain Roberts lived through as an adviser to the Turkish Navy. You have to love a character that writes his memoirs near the end of his life (dictated to a much younger wife) and then publishes them in a book now available through Google Books.
My sequel needed a romantic subplot, though, in addition to the further adventures of Jack and his wife, Lillie.
On a hunch, I searched Debrett’s, and lo and behold, up popped Miles, Jack’s younger brother. He joined the Bombay Fusiliers in the mid-1800s, about the time the British government took over military command from the East India Company. And, believe it or not, he was an incurable romantic, according to a quirky newspaper report found online.
I hope these wonderful people we call characters keep coming to me and whispering in my ear. My part is easy. All I have to do is listen. But if I drag my feet, they do keep me up nights with their complaints.
How about you? Do you enjoy historicals more knowing the characters have a bit of a foot in actual events? One commenter will receive a free ebook of Fortune’s Horizon in choice of format.
About Horizons East
In 1867, adventuress Lillie Coulbourne-Roberts is desperate. Her husband Captain Jack Roberts is missing. Now a commander in the Turkish Navy, he has to meet with His Majesty the Sultan within the week. When her stuffy brother-in-law, Miles, arrives, she dragoons him into service. On leave from military service in India, he gets claustrophobic at the thought of going undercover with his precocious four-year-old nephew and the boy’s nanny who loathes him.
Horizons East, sequel to Fortune’s Horizon, is now on preorder on Amazon at $2.99 until February 10, 2016.
Until February 10, the first entry in the series, Fortune’s Horizon will be available at 99¢.
About the Author
A native Ohioan, Andrea K. Stein is the daughter of a trucker and an artist. She grew up a scribbler. The stories just spilled out. A newspaper professional and electronic print consultant for thirty years, she finally ran away to sea for three years. Now she writes high seas romance while tucked away in the Rocky Mountains at 10,000 feet.