No, it’s not Hugh. The name’s Will. Will Jackman. Although, at first glance, I can see how you might mistake him for the actor. He’s nearly as tall, athletic, dark haired and even handsome in a rugged kind of way. But that’s almost certainly where the similarity ends.
Will Jackman is the lead in my new novel, Before It’s Too Late, and I admit, when I decided to write a novel with a male lead I knew it would be a challenge. It’s no secret that men and women think differently and act differently in certain circumstances. You don’t need to have read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus to be aware of those distinctions. The physical differences between men and women are obvious, some of the cognitive and behavioural differences less so.
For me, it’s essential to get to know a character, a lead especially, so that they come to life on the page. Writing through the eyes of DCI Helen Lavery in my first two novels was like second nature. While Helen is very different from me, she is a working mother who juggles her home and work life balance. I could relate to that. I got to know her really well during the time we spent together. But the question was – how would I do that with Jackman?
First, I pulled on my favourite male fictional characters and analysed their behaviour; writing down the elements I liked and that fitted with what I was trying to achieve, disregarding the ones that didn’t. I considered the male influences in my own life: my father, my brother, my husband, my friends. I spoke to a lot of serving police officers and detectives to see what their working/home life was like. And slowly the foundations of Jackman’s character were laid. But even then, as I was writing I was constantly saying to my husband, “How would you react to … What would you say to…” for validation that I’d got it somewhere near.
What was the result of my research? While Helen is a strong independent woman, she is no man in a skirt. Jackman is more single minded, less emotional, although you’d be wrong if you thought he saw the world as black and white. He’s a thinker and a feeler and there are definite elements of grey in his peripheral vision.
There is a lot of technology in modern day policing from CCTV cameras to mobile phones and tracking devices, to name but a few. Jackman embraces all of these, naturally, but he’s also a perceptive, seasoned, old fashioned detective: constantly reading body language, looking around him, picking up on those subtle little clues that many of the rest of us miss.
The other night I was watching a film with my family when I found myself saying, ‘Jackman wouldn’t do that…’ My daughter immediately rounded on me, ‘You do know he’s not real?’ And that was the moment I allowed myself a wry smile. Because that’s where she’s wrong. He is real to me.
Before It’s Too Late will be released by Legend Press on 1st June 2015.
This post is dedicated to my long suffering family who’ve had to live with my characters for years.