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#TBT: ‘Turnabout’s Fair Play’ Character Introductions

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Originally posted 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:

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