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Fun Friday—TURNABOUT’S FAIR PLAY Character Introductions

Friday, October 7, 2011

I sent in the proposal for The Matchmakers Series in June 2009. The series was built with two strong story ideas I’d already been working on (in fact, I’d already written a complete, but somewhat different, version of Love Remains in 2003; and I came up with and spent some time developing the original idea for The Art of Romance in early 2007). But I needed a third story idea. I knew the heroine would be the third of the best friends. Because I was an editor who’d been laid off from my job less than a year before, I decided the heroine of this third book would be an editor who would get laid off her job and, in the end, have to choose between romance and a job offer in New York. Thus, I needed a hero who would also have to make that kind of decision—between romance and a high-profile job. So, since I worked in advertising/marketing for 13+ years before entering the publishing industry, I decided to make him an account executive at a large advertising firm.

Then, because the thread that ties these books together, besides the women’s friendship, was the matchmaking grandparents. So I decided that in this book, the younger couple would turn the tables on the grandparents—a grandmother and a grandfather—and set them up even as the grandparents are trying to get them together.

Character Names
With the names Zarah and Caylor for the heroines of the first two books in the series, I couldn’t name the heroine of TFP Jane or Mary. I wanted something that was at once unique but also familiar. So I decided to go with a specific origin—Irish. And it doesn’t get much more Irish than Flannery McNeill. It took me a few months to work out the synopses for Love Remains and The Art of Romance, so aside from her friendship with Zarah and Caylor, Flannery got put on the back-burner for a few months as I worked out those ideas and the series arc.

But I still needed that hero for Flannery’s story. I liked the name Jamie for a self-confident, outgoing sales guy. And the last name O’Connor just rolled off the fingertips as his last name without my even consciously thinking about it. And it wasn’t until I sold the series and I had to write the summary blurb for the book’s web page that I realized that if Flannery and Jamie got married and she took his name, she’d become Flannery O’Connor. Just like the author. I considered changing his last name at that point—but then I realized I could build this into her character and into her interactions with Jamie.

With their grandparents’ names, I tried to keep them age appropriate. Of course, for Jamie’s grandmother, the character template helped out a lot in coming up with the name Maureen. For Flannery’s grandfather, well, not only did the template help with coming up with the name, so did the familiarity I gained with that template’s roles when writing Menu for Romance—I actually pulled the name Kirby from the same film role I used for the backstory of Major O’Hara’s name in MFR. And their grandparent nicknames, Cookie and Big Daddy? Well, that’s a little closer to home. That’s what my niece and nephews call my parents.

Character Casting
With Zarah as a brunette and Caylor as a redhead, I knew Flannery needed to be a blonde. Before I knew that Barbour wanted to use stock photos for the front covers—and that they’d be featuring the females prominently—I did as I usually do using an actress: Rosamund Pike. Once again, because I didn’t know much at all about Jamie, I pulled a template simply based on the merit that he shares a name with a character in the book: Sean Patrick Flanery.

However, once I discovered that they wanted to use stock photos—which was about halfway through writing Love Remains, I did a complete re-cast of my heroines. And of Jamie—since he was the only hero I hadn’t already built around the template who inspired him in the first place. And as soon as I saw this stock photo, I knew it was Flannery. I could actually see this photo as the cover of the book.

It was harder to find Jamie—because at that point, I still didn’t know him very well. But since I knew he’d be in the background, it was more of an attitude and overall look rather than a specific face I was looking for. This guy seemed to fit.

But then I started writing the book. And this model wasn’t giving me anything useful. I couldn’t hear his voice. I couldn’t visualize the way he moved, the way he interacted with people. So I knew that even though that stock model would be on the cover, I needed to recast Jamie once more.

Well, by this point, it’s 2011 and I have a new obsession—the reboot of the TV series Hawaii Five-0. And as I started trying to write TFP, all of a sudden, Jamie started taking on some of the physical characteristics and mannerisms of a certain Alex O’Loughlin/Steve McGarrett. It took me a couple of months to write the first 20k words of the book. Then, once I started focusing on Alex and gaining inspiration from watching him (though, I do have to say that watching The Backup Plan and the first few episodes of Moonlight set me back a bit, but Three Rivers and more episodes of Hawaii Five-0 got me back on track), I was finally able to get a handle on Jamie—on the fact that he may seem suave and collected on the outside, but that delicious exterior barely hides his inner dork.

Flannery’s grandfather and Jamie’s grandmother were among the first characters cast in this series. Once I knew that there would be a romance between the two of them, there were only two templates who would work—the templates who inspired their characters’ names, Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne:

Secondary Characters

Of course, we have Zarah and Bobby, from Love Remains, and Caylor and Dylan, from The Art of Romance, making repeat appearances in this book.

We also have Kiki, Mamm, Sassy, and Perty backing up Cookie in TFP, too.

And here are some other important secondary characters you’ll get to meet—one of whom you met Monday in the sneak peek:

John Barrowman as Jack Colby, Flannery’s boss

Lynda Carter as Jamie’s mom, Jackie Murphy; with Lynda Carter’s real-life family serving as the template for Jamie’s stepfather, Don, and his younger half-brother and half-sister, Ryan and Chelsea.

And just as Flannery has best friends, Jamie needed to have a best friend, too. I wanted Danny (his name was always Danny—even though I eventually tried to fight against it) to be someone of a different ethnicity, as I feel I don’t have a very large diversity of ethnicities in my books. I toyed with a few different templates, but no one clicked for me until I recast Jamie as Alex O’Loughlin. And then it was quite clear who Danny was:

Daniel Dae Kim as Danny Seung

At this point, I tried changing Danny’s name to something else—because it was just too weird to me that not only is the template’s real name Daniel, but the “best friend” character opposite Alex O’Loughlin’s Steve McGarrett on H50 is also named Danny. But as hard as I tried, the character stubbornly insisted his name was Danny. So Danny he remained.

Danny is married—and with Daniel Dae Kim as the template, there was only one template I could pick for his wife.

Yunjin Kim as Chae Koh Seung

And the last important character I’ll introduce to you today has very little “face time” on the pages of the book, but he plays a very important role, Flannery’s cat Liam:



  1. Lady DragonKeeper permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2011 2:14 am

    I love it! It’s always neat to see “behind the scenes” of your books, Ms. Kaye! I actually can picture Alex O’Loughlin as Jamie, since he’s a little blurred out on the cover.

    Did they use that exact stock photo for Flannery? It looks like it …

    Ha-ha, my favorite photo you shared is the one of Liam –he looks absolutely adorable! 😉


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 12:41 pm

      I’m not sure if it’s that *exact* photo, because there were lots of options to choose from on Jupiter Images of that particular model—which was great for me, because I got to see her with a variety of facial/body-language expressions, as well as with her hair up and down. (You can see more photos of her, and the other templates, in my Flickr set for this book:


      • Lady DragonKeeper permalink
        Saturday, October 8, 2011 12:26 am

        Ah, I’m sold. She’s Flannery! 😀


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:28 pm

      Also—forgot to include a link to the image of Alex and the stock model side by side:


  2. Friday, October 7, 2011 5:35 am

    Always love reading the character introductions. I must say Liam is a gorgeous cat.


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 12:46 pm

      I’m not a cat person, but even I would have a hard time resisting that face!


  3. Friday, October 7, 2011 5:40 am

    Oh I love Liam what a darling cat. makes me want one just like him. (I really miss not having a cat and I miss having neighbours having a cat that just happens to love me more and come visit me and go home to be feed).
    Liam defiantly stills the post today.
    Did Flannery name him after someone special?


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 12:46 pm

      You’ll have to read the book if you want to learn the origin of Liam’s name!


  4. Abigail permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2011 10:07 am

    The cat is so cute.
    My family and I have a lot of cats.


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 12:52 pm

      My dad’s parents and brother had/have cats, but we were always a dog family.


  5. Friday, October 7, 2011 10:41 am

    Oh, what fun it was to read your post today! I love reading about the character development. I especially like seeing how they relate to shows I watch, too. I know that I loved Three Rivers and can picture who your Jamie is much better now. I can see how it really helps to create a better connection with the character. What a great idea!!


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 12:59 pm

      I’ve always done this visual character casting—and I never talked about it, EVER, because it made me feel like even more of a weirdo than just the compulsion to write made me feel. But ten years ago, at my first writers’ conference, an instructor in one of the workshops pulled out her storyboard (posterboard with images taped/glued to it) with the images of her characters and settings on it and I realized that what I’d always done wasn’t that unusual for writers to do, so I not only embraced it, I started talking about it. And from that, I developed a workshop around Visually Oriented Character Casting. In fact, that was the teaching presentation I did for my master’s degree!


  6. Rebekah W permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2011 10:48 am

    Interesting name, Flannery. I like it!!!!! Liam looks like a cat my friend’s mom owns. He is as spoiled rotten as they come, and he knows it!! I love that you decided to use Alex O’Loughlin for Jaime. He’s a very charming guy and I think you have chosen well :). I cannot wait to read the newest book!


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:03 pm

      This is the first time I haven’t been able to “let go” of the template for the hero of one of my books after I finished writing the book. Of course, I didn’t have to immediately dive into another book as soon as I finished TFP, so I’ve been able to indulge the continued obsession. But as soon as this book is launched, it’s time to move on to the next obsession—Henry Cavill!


  7. Friday, October 7, 2011 11:01 am

    I can imagine all kinds of conflict between Jamie and Flannery concerning LIAM! LOL My husband has never been what you’d call a “cat person,” but they all seem to love him!


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:05 pm

      Jamie surprised me a bit by not only not minding Liam’s presence but by showing that he likes him. Of course, that’s all I can say about that without giving too much of the story away!


  8. Friday, October 7, 2011 11:37 am

    Very interesting post on your characters’ names.So, you use stock photos or TV personalities to help you visualize your characters. In my mind I know what my characters look like and I prowl around in every catalog and cut out pictures that fit the characters in my mind. Thanks for the interesting post today.


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:21 pm

      Jo, check out You can register (free) for an account so that you can copy pictures from the site with no watermarks. It’s the best site I’ve found for being able to specify parameters for the models.

      I have a really hard time writing any characters, main or secondary, without finding a Real World Template for them first (usually an actor/actress so I can see them move, how they emote with facial expressions, and what their voices sound like—but sometimes, models like the ones for Zarah, Caylor, and Flannery, of whom I can get multiple photos with different expressions/body language/emotions, work well too).


  9. Friday, October 7, 2011 11:58 am

    I never get tired of reading about your casting process. It’s a lot like mine, and I’m just glad I’m not the only one who does this. As you know, I’ve cast Alex too as my current male lead, only a younger version of him, as he looked in that Mary Bryant movie. Link to photo:

    And I love it that her name is going to be Flannery O’Connor. I’m glad you didn’t change it. I can just see her rolling her eyes when the realization first hits. And Jamie laughing his head off about it. I haven’t even held this book in my hands and these characters have such life. Way to blog, girl!


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:21 pm

      Is her name going to be Flannery O’Connor? I don’t remember saying that! 😉

      Love that pic of Alex!


  10. Friday, October 7, 2011 12:11 pm

    How fun! And of course Sun is the best friend’s wife! Who else could it be?!

    I’ll say the cat is adorable and leave his cuteness far away – I’m allergic :/.

    [And speaking of LOST alums… are you watching Ben Linus on Person of Interest? He still sounds like Benry to me… Probably always will…]


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:26 pm

      Carol, I’m not only allergic, but I’m not a big fan of cats myself.

      I tried watching Person of Interest and by the middle of the second episode, I’d lost, uh, interest in the show.

      He will always be Ben Linus . . . just like Terry O’Quinn (now on H50) will always be John Locke. Which is especially weird given that he’s on a show with Daniel Dae Kim that’s shot in Hawaii—and the location scouts seem to be taking pleasure in using recognizable locations from LOST, even just for short scenes like the opening of this past Monday’s episode (the lagoon with the waterfall where Kate and Sawyer found the metal briefcase and then later where Jack, Hurley, and Kate reappeared in Season 6).


      • Friday, October 7, 2011 1:53 pm

        Yep. He’s still John Locke, and I recognized that waterfall immediately. Funny though, Daniel Dae Kim has become Chin instead of Jin. Maybe given time Terry will be Joe White.


        • Friday, October 7, 2011 2:04 pm

          I think it helps that DDK isn’t speaking with an accent and his mannerisms are somewhat different (more friendly, laid-back, happy) than the character he played before. Terry O’Quinn’s mannerisms, expressions, etc., still feel very John Lockey to me.


  11. Sara Aimee herrick permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2011 4:51 pm

    I really enjoyed reading again how you name and picture your charactors for your books. It is a very in-depth process when I thought it was more of a “well, I haven’t used this name in awhile…” kind of thing. Silly me!!


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 5:21 pm

      I’m actually pretty obsessive about trying not to reuse names. Of course, James/Jamie is a repeat from Ransome’s Quest to TFP—since William’s brother who turns up in RQ is James Ransome. But I didn’t even think of Jamie O’Connor as a James. His grandfather was James. His father was Jim. He’s Jamie. And they were all completely different people. So it didn’t really cross my mind that I was re-using a name.

      I do tend to try to stick with more traditional/old-fashioned names, even in the contemporaries (probably because that’s what I was accustomed to in my family and with my own name—Katherine Nell). I also like to mine my family tree for more unusual names (which is where Julia, William, Michael, Major, Caylor, and Bradley—Dylan’s last name—came from).


  12. Friday, October 7, 2011 5:20 pm

    Loved the sneak peek, Kaye.
    And I REALLY like Jack. He seems so likeable!!! 🙂 Good to know we get to see him again


    • Friday, October 7, 2011 5:22 pm

      Even though I knew Jack, who’s introduced in Love Remains, would be a background character in TFP, I had no idea just how important of a secondary character he would become. I’m glad he did, though. I loved writing the scenes he’s in!


      • Friday, October 7, 2011 5:26 pm

        I absolutely LOVE it when secondary characters push their way into the spotlight and grab our hearts.


  13. Pam K. permalink
    Friday, October 7, 2011 10:19 pm

    I really enjoy these behind the scenes look at your book, with all the photos. You must spend lots of time finding just the right photos for your characters. I like your attention to details.


  14. Audry permalink
    Sunday, October 9, 2011 3:03 pm

    I’m going to have to open this page on my iPad and set it next to me as I read the book so that I can look up each character as he/she is introduced!



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