I am excited to introduce today a new author J.R Richardson, who has her debut novel ‘Cursed be the Wicked’ releasing in March 2014. It looks like such a great read and J.R has very kindly taken the time to tell us about how she created her characters and share her favourite scene with us. So without further ado, here are Coop and Finn.
Cooper Shaw lives his life under a pen name and enjoys the anonymity it provides during his journeys across the globe as a seasoned writer for a travel magazine. When his job lands him in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts to cover the famous Festival of the Dead, he soon realizes that he can’t stay invisible forever as he faces ghosts from a past he’s been trying to forget ever since he left.
The city holds nothing but bad memories for Coop until he meets a quirky young woman with an old soul and curious insights by the name of Finnley Pierce. While she acts as his tour guide through a town he thought he knew, Finn helps him unearth the truth of his childhood and might even begin to open up his heart.
By unraveling the mystery of his father’s murder, Coop may finally accept who he is, where he came from, and perhaps even realize what he wants for his future.
Creating Cooper Shaw:
This is my Coop. James MacAvoy. Always and forever. He just fits the bill so perfectly for me. He’s not buff, he’s not superhuman. He’s just Coop.
Coop does his best to lead a rather anonymous life. He writes a travel destination column under a pen name, he has no room for friends, he’s got no long term relationships. He likes it like that, though, compared to his childhood, where everyone knew him as the potential murderer of his father, and the son of a crazy old woman who claimed to be a witch.
Coop was forced to deal with a lot of scrutiny as he went through the rest of his childhood living in Salem, Massachusetts. If the name calling and insinuations by people he’d previously considered friends wasn’t enough, on top of losing his dad, his mother was taken from him as well. After confessing to killing her husband, with witchcraft, Maggie Shaw was deemed unfit, and sent away by her sister to a mental institution where she refused to see her son, much less talk to him and explain what had happened between her and Coop’s dad, Ben Shaw. On top of that, he was placed in the custody of his only aunt, who wasn’t the best as showing affection while he lived with her.
So, he left. Immediately following his high school graduation, Coop took off to reinvent himself and never looked back. He was doing a pretty great job of it too, until he got word that his mother had died and the funeral services were to be held back in Salem – if he wanted to attend. Which he didn’t. And he wouldn’t have, except that as fate would have it, the powers that be at his magazine decided they wanted a huge spread on Salem’s Festival of the Dead and they wanted none other than Cooper Shaw to write it.
But was it fate? Or was it powers that exist beyond what his bosses were capable of at the Monthly Traveler?
Enter, Finnley, or as she likes to be called, “Finn” Pierce:
I’ve never really been able to give a face to Finnley.
I knew she was free spirited,
Not like any other woman Coop’s met before,
And, for lack of a better word, magical.
The closest I’ve come, is this fantastic photo of Emma Watson:
She has her own past that she thought was behind her but when she meets Coop, someone she’s vaguely familiar with before he even arrives in town, she begins to reacquaint herself with the gifts she was only starting to learn when her own parents were ripped from her life.
The challenge of writing Finn, and letting clues to who she is and how she knows what she knows seep into the story, as Coop see it all, was fun to explore. I’m pretty subtle at times. Too subtle, some might even say but that’s part of the enjoyment in reading a mystery for me, so I try not to give everything away too obviously when I’m creating the story. I can only hope people will have as much fun reading the story as I had writing it.
Coop, on the other hand, was pretty easy to write. He’s stubborn, smart alecky and doesn’t like people telling him what to do (much like me). I tend to enjoy writing stories from the male point of view because I believe I think more like them than my own species. I still enjoy writing from a woman’s POV, it just seems to come easier when I’m writing from his.
Putting these two together was one of the best experiences of my life. And not just because it’s the first story of mine to land a publishing deal. Between the guy who is determined to avoid dealing with his past, and a woman who helps him move beyond who he thinks he is without him even realizing she’s doing it, was fun to watch and write.
One of my favorite scenes in the book:
“Raymond, I’m tired. I don’t have time for this to-”
The woman standing behind the front desk spins to see, not Raymond, whoever the hell that is, but me. As she comes to the realization that I’m not who she thinks I am, I get the feeling she still thinks I’m someone as she finishes her sentence.
Her long, brown hair looks as though it’s trying to escape the ponytail she’s pulled it into. Her eyes are dark, fierce even. It feels like she’s peering straight into my soul, or piercing it, as they stare across the front entry way toward me.
Her mouth falls open slightly as her eyes narrow, and now I’m getting the impression she’s trying to place me or, maybe she already has placed me.
She looks away when her eyes catch up with mine and I approach with caution. As she begins to type away at the keyboard in front of her, I try to side step the awkwardness beginning to form by clearing my throat.
“I know who you are,” she cuts me off, sharply.
“You do?” I ask. Blood begins to rush through me. I clench my jaw, waiting for the judgmental comments to arrive.
Her eyes soften then, and she simply nods with a thin line forming across her lips.
She studies me, then twists her mouth up as though she’s disappointed of all things.
I get it. Just about half the town thought I was the one that killed my father, even after my mother confessed.
“Seems like every other Tom, Dick, and Harry in the media’s shown up already. You may as well join ‘em,” she says, and I’m surprised yet relieved at her words. In a way.
“You think I’m…?”
“You’ve got paparazzi written all over you.”
She arches an eyebrow.
I don’t mean to but I laugh out loud from the sheer relief that she has no idea who I am. I also feel the need to defend myself because I’m not a fan of being lumped in with the paps.
“The funeral’s not for another week, ya know,” she informs me, going back to her computer.
“You’re mistaken,” I insist, even though she’s right. I am media. Technically.
“Really,” she replies, like she’s not quite buying it. So I push harder. I’m very convincing when I want to be.
“Yes. Really,” I tell her and now she’s back to eying me and we’re staring each other down for a minute or two. I’m convinced she’s going to fight me on this but in the end, she bites her tongue and goes back to banging away on the keyboard.
“In town for the festival then?” she asks, changing the subject. Like whatever just happened didn’t happen at all, which both intrigues and irritates me at the same time.
I watch her a bit while she busies herself with the computer. The way she tucks some stray hairs behind her ear and then lets her fingers graze her neck before she goes back to typing. The easy way her fingers fly across the keyboard. And how she is most definitely avoiding eye contact with me for some reason.
I spot her name tag. She doesn’t look familiar to me but you never know.
Betsy, Betsy, Betsy.
I can’t think of a single Betsy I knew growing up.
She looks up and her eyes narrow again. It’s only now that I’m aware of the fact that I’ve been glaring at her for the past couple of minutes without saying a word. I clear my throat and forget to speak when she licks her lips and then takes the bottom one in between her teeth.
I am officially an ape.
She lets it go.
I stare some more.
“So . . . ?”
“What?” I snap, a tad more abrasive than I intend.
“Do you have a reservation?” she asks, trying to be polite without letting on that she most likely thinks I’m the slowest dolt on the planet.
Maybe I am crazy.
Maybe it runs in the family.
I gather my senses and shake off the odd feeling of vertigo I’m having.
“No,” is all I give her. Then I drop my bags and rest my elbows against the counter. My eyes close as I rub my temples, anxiously waiting to hear her tell me they’re all booked up, forcing me to drive those extra miles after all.
I mean, what would it take? Ten, twenty minutes tops to get there?
My lids open to see her staring at me with curled eyebrows and a worried look in her eyes. They look so familiar to me again.
I just can’t…
“Are you drunk?” She asks. It takes me aback.
“Because I’m not in the mood for-”
“I’m not drunk,” I assure her, wishing I was. As she eyes me carefully once again, I feel her staring straight through me.
Cursed be the Wicked is due out in March of 2014 by Soul Mate Publishing.
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