The old adage of, “Write about what you know,” is certainly applicable to “Paper Wings.” But beyond the story itself, the adage is also applicable to the characters. As is true for most, life experience dictates our perception of people and their personalities. In that regard, many of the characters are a composite of the personalities I have been fortunate… and unfortunate… enough to encounter.
Novels that I enjoy reading include a distinguishable protagonist, a hero. In “Paper Wings,” Captain Hart Lindy is that guy. But Hart is not without his flaws. Having flaws makes him real. I also felt it important for Hart to have believable personality traits rather than to depict him as James Bond or Sir Lancelot. (Although, Sir Lancelot did have an affair with the Queen… which actually makes him similar to Hart.)
Combining the qualities of friends and people I admire, in addition to qualities that are not so admirable, I created Hart Lindy. If it’s any reflection, my wife is not terribly fond of Hart. But she does appreciate his positive attributes; similar to how she deals with me. And yes, a little bit of me is within Captain Lindy. You’ll get more familiar with him as he continues into subsequent books within the series.
Of course the protagonist requires a romantic interest, so I introduce Cathy. Hart’s girlfriend is a mix of many likable female personalities, inclusive of my wife. As with most of us, the relationship is not perfect.
Albeit brief, I present the characters of the union accident investigation team with fondness. Having been involved as a peer support volunteer, trained in critical incident stress management (CISM) amidst the tragedy of the worst aviation accident on US soil, I became intimately familiar with the effects that such events can have on people, more specifically, the effects on typical Type-A pilots.
My peripheral role within this particular accident investigation allowed me the opportunity to view the process from a unique vantage point that went beyond the technical aspects. The vantage point offered a broader view of airplane accident investigation- an important and credible influence for the premise of this book.
Although I had already considered the attributes of the protagonist before I typed words on the laptop, other characters hadn’t quite developed. For instance, the plot required a cop, but how strong a role he would play and what type of personality he would portray didn’t begin to materialize until the story progressed. Utilizing my association with law enforcement folks that I have known over the years, which included a good friend, I created a hybrid cop in the form of Detective Alvarez.
At the accident investigation site, I outlined the story to include an FBI agent. I felt it would add some spice if the agent conflicted with Hart, so I created a character that mirrored the irritating personality of a colleague. But as I put meat on the bones of the story, the FBI man began to exhibit more positive qualities. In addition, I wanted to dispense with the stereotypical, stiff, dark, blue suit and skinny tie, G-man that Hollywood and TV often portray. Enter Ryan Fredricks.
Beyond the FBI character, I felt it important to include an airline pilot manager in the form of a chief pilot. Having a good friend in that position at one time, and having maintained a relationship with others in similar roles, I was afforded a glimpse from that perspective. Special qualities are required to juggle the interests of rank and file line pilots with the interests of the airline. It is often a thankless job.
In that regard, the character of Captain Rod Moretti contributes some additional conflict. And in a very small respect, the conflict might just have some basis in real life. I’ll leave it to your imagination.
Creating villains is fun, but it’s difficult for my pilot brain to think like one. My method in developing villains was to first consider their motivation for committing their criminal acts. Once their motivations were established, it became easier to build their personalities. I liked the idea of capable and cunning female criminals, so I introduced Amber and Serena. And I gave them the protection of ruthless brawn in the form of Chris, a PTSD-inflicted war vet.
Other villains I kept elusive, leaving their descriptions mostly to the imagination of the reader through their actions.
The standard tongue-in-cheek question often asked by friends and colleagues is, “Am I inthe book?” My response is equally tongue-in-cheek. In one form or another everybody has a role in the book, some more than others. A little piece of everyone I have had the pleasure… or displeasure… of knowing are embedded into the characters.
And finally, do the names of the characters have any reference to real people? Yes and no. Some characters have the same initials. Some have names similar to the real person. And others…well… I’ll leave that up to the readers that know me.