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LOVE REMAINS: Character Casting

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

As mentioned last Tuesday, I originally came up with the story idea for and wrote the first draft of Love Remains back in 2003. As mentioned, the template for the character that would become Bobby Patterson was a real-life coworker of mine. So I already had his physical type/looks in mind as I developed the story idea—but by the time I started writing the story, we no longer worked together and I didn’t have any pictures of him. So I needed a similar template of whom I could find pictures.

At that time, there was a program on HGTV called Weekend Warriors that I watched not for the amateur remodeling on display but because of the host, a guy named Brien Blakely (rabbit trail: oddly enough, Blakeley was last name of the hero in my first completed manuscript, which I came up with long before this show aired). Because the real-life person who inspired this fictional character was named Kevin, and because I had a thing for the name Kevin as a teenager, I originally named the character Kevin Patterson (Patterson chosen because it’s a good, solid, easy to type/read/pronounce last name).

To be totally honest, I can’t really remember how I came up with the name Zarah. I’ve never been one for unusual/kitschy names, but I think I was stuck on Z names at that time, because I have another story idea from around the same time in which the character’s name is Zannah (short for Suzannah, of course). Anyway, to go ahead and answer the inevitable question—it’s pronounced just like Sarah but with a Z instead of an S. Again, I chose the last name Mitchell because, after years of developing and populating Bonneterre, Louisiana, I needed some easy to type, easy to read/pronounce last names. (And partly because Adam Baldwin’s character in Independence Day was Major Mitchell, so that name had stuck with me for a while.)

It’s rather fitting that I ended up casting the other two main female characters in this series from stock photos, because Zarah Mitchell was the first character I ever wrote who was cast from a catalog model rather than an actor/actress. Thank goodness for my mother’s addiction to Land’s End clothing and for sending me some stuff from there throughout the years to ensure I’d receive their catalogs, because that’s where I found the template for Zarah, in their Holiday Edition 2002 plus-size catalog (and yes, I still have the catalog—which is a very good thing, because all of my old scans had degraded badly in eight years, so I was able to rescan them all!).

I loved that she wasn’t the typical model one sees in clothing catalogs and there were other images of her as well (more than 25 just in this one 68-page catalog!), all of which started painting a picture of a personality: someone who’s quiet, demure, self-deprecating, modest (perhaps overly so), takes herself and her life a little too seriously. And I wanted a character who’s slightly larger, this time a size 14.

Needless to say, when I received this cover:

while I thought it was gorgeous, I did have to e-mail my editor back to tell her in the nicest way I could that neither person on the front cover looks like my characters.

After a new design and a few tweaks back and forth, they came up with the cover we now have, which I absolutely adore. I’ve had several people ask me if it’s actually me on the front cover. So, to answer that question:

I’m not sure where they found the stock photo of this model (I’ve searched high and low and can’t find her), but as you can see, she’s a much better representation of the template I’ve had in my head for this character for seven and a half years now than the girl on that first cover. (And yes, there is quite a bit of resemblance to me, at least, back when I had long hair.)

When I pulled the manuscript and all of my image files up when I started what I thought was going to be a rewrite/revision of the original draft, I realized that Kevin’s character no longer worked. Originally, he was a computer software programmer who’d returned to Nashville to open a branch of the company of which he was a Vice President. The problem, I realized, was that the only conflict this gave me was Zarah’s dread of having to work with him to upgrade the computers/systems/software at the agency where she worked. Not a very deep plot. And, because I needed to change his career, I had to change the reason why he came back to Nashville—and still give him some excuse for interaction with Zarah.

In the years between writing the original draft and picking it up again, a couple of things happened. I fell in love with the idea of creating a law enforcement character named Bobby (thanks to Vincent d’Onofrio’s character Bobby Goren in Law & Order: Criminal Intent), and I developed a major character-development crush on the actor Tamoh Penikett by watching him in both Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse—on which he played an FBI agent. So why not rename him Bobby and have him be with the state criminal investigation division? (So, no, there is no connection to the “actor” Robert Pattinson, as the name Patterson was chosen long before Pattinson appeared in his first movie.)

So I ended up with Zarah Mitchell, age 32, Assistant Director of the Middle Tennessee Historic Preservation Commission, and Bobby Patterson, age 34, Special Agent in Charge, Tennessee Criminal Investigations Unit.

More pictures of Zarah and Bobby here.

Secondary Characters
In addition to the grandparents, there are several important secondary characters:

Patrick “Mack Truck” Macdonald (template: former Tennessee Titans player Frank Wycheck). Patrick and Bobby played football together in high school and had planned to go on to play together at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville, but due to getting involved with the wrong kinds of kids (a judge’s son and a preacher’s son), Bobby ended up enlisting in the Army upon graduating from high school. Patrick is co-leader with Zarah of the singles group at their church.

Special Agent Chase Denney (template: actor, writer, director Tyler Perry). The first person Bobby meets at his new job, Chase not only helps Bobby settle in at the TCIU, he becomes Bobby’s sounding board, providing Bobby someone to talk to unconnected with himself or Zarah in an emotional way who can provide objective feedback on their situation. Chase is married with two sons.

Dr. Dennis Forrester (template: actor Denis Lawson). Dennis has been Zarah’s boss since she started working at the MTHPC as a graduate student. As Bobby learns in his case briefing, Dr. Forrester has his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of North Carolina and worked as a city planner and zoning official in several places for the first twenty years of his career. Then he moved to Nashville to pursue a graduate degree in Historic Preservation at James Robertson University (more on that next spring when I introduce The Art of Romance). He’s been the director of MTHPC for ten years. And, according to Bobby’s boss, “he seems pretty well-to-do for someone who’s been the head of a government-funded nonprofit agency for that long.”

Caylor Evans and Flannery McNeill (templates: models from Jupiter Images). Zarah first met Caylor and Flannery because Caylor’s grandmother is friends with Zarah’s grandmother. Caylor is two years older than Zarah and Flannery is right in between them in age (Caylor and Flannery met Flan’s first year at Vandy when they were on the same hall in the dorm and had several classes together). At the end of her sophomore year of college at Vanderbilt, Zarah moved into an apartment off campus with Caylor and Flan. The three continued living together—moving from the apartment into a house when Zarah was in grad school. Five years ago, when Caylor’s grandfather died, she had to move in with her grandmother, because her grandmother can’t drive; so Zarah bought a house in the 12 South area of Nashville, and Flannery bought a condo in downtown. Caylor is a tenured professor of British Literature and Literary Criticism at James Robertson University, along with being a published romance novelist, and Flannery is an editor at a publishing house. Caylor gets her story told in The Art of Romance (May 2011), and Flannery gets her romance in Turnabout Is Fair Play (December 2011).

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  1. Tuesday, July 13, 2010 12:25 am

    These are always so fun to me. I so rarely slow down enough to see things this clearly.

    Well done.


    • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:41 am

      I wouldn’t have had the ability to slow down and do this if I hadn’t created the original version of this story so many years ago. The turnaround time on this manuscript was so tight that I didn’t get to do nearly as much character development/casting as I wanted to.


  2. Tuesday, July 13, 2010 8:04 am

    It just struck me in reading this that Flannery really, really resembles actress Beth Riesgraf:×500.jpg


    • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:41 am

      She looks very familiar–what’s she on?


      • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:43 am

        She’s on the TV show Leverage (on TNT).


  3. Jennifer Elerick permalink
    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 8:05 am

    Ok so Flannery (Fanny) the one with the long hair..right? Funny how well they fit the description in my head however I thought of Flannery with blonde long hair and more like Kate Hudson maybe. Wierd I know. Well now thinking more about Andi Anderson, she isn’t really. Anyway, I am almost finished with Love Remains and I am really liking it. Thank you for all of the answered questions.


    • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 8:57 am

      Yes, Caylor is the one with short red hair and Flannery is the one with long blonde hair. The original template for Flannery was the actress Rosamund Pike, from the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice:


  4. Jennifer Elerick permalink
    Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:18 am

    Rosamund really fits her in my mind.


  5. Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:28 am

    The use of Tyler Perry made me smile.


    • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:42 am

      The truth of the matter is that I didn’t cast him until I wrote this post—and I think I chose him because I watched Star Trek this weekend.


      • Jennifer Elerick permalink
        Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:45 am

        What does Tyler Perry have to do with Star Trek? I loved Tyler Perry being cast as Chase!


        • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 9:46 am

          He’s the admiral in charge of the disciplinary hearing for Kirk in the re-boot movie.


        • Jennifer Elerick permalink
          Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:40 am

          That is right..forgot


  6. Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:09 am

    I love reading about the changes you’ve made as the characters developed more fully. When I did this for mine, I found that it was so much EASIER to develop the characters on paper when I had that image in my head, as well as on my computer! OK, now I want to watch Star Trek again…


    • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 3:49 pm

      If I hadn’t already had my main characters cast (Bobby, Zarah, the grandparents, Caylor, Flannery), I wouldn’t have been able to get the book written in the short time I was able to get it turned around. So now, when I really get to work on The Art of Romance next month (as I have already written the prologue and first chapter), I have a lot more to go on because I’ve now had even more time to get to know Caylor and Flannery through their appearances in Love Remains. I find it so much easier to get started on books featuring viewpoint characters who were secondary characters in previous books.


      • Tuesday, July 13, 2010 7:00 pm

        Found a copy of LOVE REMAINS at Books-a-Million today! Whoo-hoo! I bought a copy for the library!


  7. Tuesday, July 13, 2010 3:32 pm

    Always love seeing this. It’s so awesome. 😉


  8. Wednesday, July 14, 2010 7:16 am

    As always, I love getting more insight into your characters!! 🙂


  9. Saturday, November 5, 2011 2:48 pm

    I’m finally reading this series, starting with Love Remains, so I came over to revisit this casting post. Totally absorbed in this story, Kaye! Looking forward to the rest of them. Wish I could have gotten to them sooner. So. Much. Research. Really slows down my fiction reading at times.



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