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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Published Character on the Couch: A Couples' Session with Theodora and Seth

This Thursday I'm happy to welcome Theo and Seth of Catherine Butzen's The God Collector, out last month. This sounds like a fantastic book, and I got my copy from Amazon today. Of course, I'm partial to heroes named Seth these days. ;)

Their love is ancient history if they can’t catch the thief out to kill them.

Theodora Speer loves her job at the Columbian Exposition Museum designing murals, but a sense of movement—in her art and in her life—eludes her.  She meets the museum’s enigmatic donor Seth Adler while working on a new exhibit: a strange cache of shabtis, or clay funerary figurines, accompanying a prize mummy, and something sparks.

Seth Adler’s interest in the Egyptian artifacts and in Theo goes deeper than patronage, but he can’t tell her that. A series of robberies has everyone on edge and when the Columbian is hit, Theo and Seth are implicated. Someone thinks there was more to the ancient Egyptian funeral rites than meets the eye and wants the mummy and his grave goods.

Seth and Theo are forced on the run, and it may be too much movement for strict realist Theo to keep up with. But the man—and the mummy—are more than she realized. And if she can’t reconcile the past and the present, she and Seth may have no future.

Here's the interview:

If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer. 

Theodora Speer would willingly visit a psychologist to untangle her own personal concerns, especially following a rather ... explosive meeting with a certain man. Seth Adler would not be brought in, by Theo or anyone else, unless he was directly ordered by a presiding legal authority. Disobeying could risk exposing his false identity, and to him, personal preservation and playing the long game are everything.

Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Yes and no. The problem is that Seth is not, so to speak, what he appears to be. He has trouble figuring out how to relate to other people because he rarely wants to, and he's learned to wait out problems simply by outliving the person who's causing him the problem. Theo, on the other hand, has only one life to live, and she can't comprehend the type of mindset that would leave a country for a hundred years just to wait until an enemy has died. They clash in The God Collector, and they are likely to clash in the office.

It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Theo hesitates before taking a seat on the couch. She sits with knees together, hands resting on the cushions beside her, fingers fidgeting with nothing. "Too much coffee," she says, trying to grin. Seth does not sit; he remains standing against the wall, remaining formal and withdrawn.

Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

Theo tries to explain the situation. It doesn't go well. She mumbles something about Egypt and toys with the necklace she wears, which shows what looks like a melted ankh in silver. Seth picks up the slack somewhat: "One might say the issue is a fundamental clash of mindsets," he says. "I prefer to wait; she prefers to act. I can't object, because it's saved my life--" 

"In a manner of speaking," Theo interrupts, shaking her head bemusedly.

"And you wonder why I don't like modern people," he tells her. There's a note of teasing in his voice, though it's hard to discern past his glacial exterior. "They'll never respect you once they've got their hands on your heart--"

"In a manner of speaking," Theo repeats, grinning. The free hand on the couch cups, as if she's remembering holding something.

Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

When it comes to bars, Theo goes alone. She orders a screwdriver and sits blankly, staring at the air for a few minutes while she sips. Then she takes a pen out of her purse and begins to sketch on the bar napkin. The shape that emerges under her hand is not entirely human: a twisted, liquid thing, struggling to live even while it has no body to inhabit. She crumples up the napkin and throws it away.

When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

Interviews are definitely helpful. I studied some psychology, and I often find myself returning to my old textbooks when I'm trying to build a new character, but just sitting them down and asking "What's your problem?" is surprisingly useful to me. Sometimes I'll have two characters pick a fight with each other just to see what they shout--they've surprised me more than once!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I look forward to meeting your characters in your book.

If you're a writer who needs help with a character or an author who would like to send someone over to be interviewed, please email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com

Speaking of heroes named Seth, I'll be doing a blog hop in anticipation of the release of A Perfect Man on May 12 with cool prizes overall and all along. Please join the Facebook event for more info and prize updates.

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