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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Character on the Couch: Beth Dolgner's Carter

I had a lovely time at Anachrocon a couple of weekends ago with fellow authors including Beth Dolgner, who, I found, lives quite close to me. She was kind enough to send her gentleman ghost hunter Carter over for a chat.

Ghost of a Threat 
Book 1 of the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter Series

Normal young women go on dates on Saturday nights. Paranormal investigator Betty “Boo” Boorman goes on ghost hunts in Savannah, Georgia, America's most haunted city. She's more comfortable around ghosts than guys, anyway.

A violent haunting forces Betty to team up with her rival ghost hunter, the arrogant Carter Lansford. When the violence is turned toward her, though, Betty knows she needs additional expertise. She enlists the help of a handsome stranger, who introduces himself simply as Maxwell, Demon.

Betty's ghost hunting is cut short when she's threatened and, finally, attacked. Either someone wants her to stay away from an investigation, or a demon hunter is targeting her. As Betty begins to fall for Maxwell's mysterious charm, she starts to wonder if her life—and her soul—are worth the risk.

Barnes & Noble

1. 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.

Carter Lansford had never thought of himself as someone who would willingly visit a psychologist. He was descended from a long line of strong men, rich merchants who had helped shape Savannah’s history. None of them would have ever visited a psychologist. After all, they certainly weren’t the ones who needed help. They did just fine on their own, thank you.

Then again, none of Carter’s ancestors had been ghost hunters like him. Nor had they, Carter thought smugly, ever published a book, been a featured guest at paranormal conventions or been the local media’s favorite person during the Halloween season. They had also never seen demons in the flesh.

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

Carter had refused to believe in demons for as long as possible, assuming that violent paranormal activity was simply the result of really angry ghosts. He had been in denial until he had seen a demon lay his hands on a man and burn him from the inside out, incinerating the body completely. Carter shuddered every time he remembered the scene, a sickening feeling in his stomach rising as he recalled the smell of burning flesh. Carter would never dare to tell his friends about the nightmares, and so he had finally given in, hoping no one would see him furtively entering the psychologist’s office.

3. 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?

Carter walked into the office and headed straight for the window. He brushed the fingers of one finely manicured hand along the windowsill, as if he was inspecting for dust. With a sniff of satisfaction, he turned and walked to the couch, sitting down with the air of visiting royalty. He crossed his legs and smoothed his blonde hair calmly.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

“So,” Carter said grandly in his Southern drawl, finally making eye contact with the psychologist, “if you’ve read my book, then what I’m going to say won’t be much of a surprise to you. Do you believe in ghosts and demons?”

“Do you, Mr. Lansford?”

“Of course. I have proven their existence. My paranormal investigation team is the best in Savannah. Understand, though, that I can’t tell you all of my story because some of it could have, well,” Carter paused dramatically, “negative consequences.”

“Our discussion is completely confidential, I assure you.”

Carter waved a hand dismissively. “I’m a public figure. I can’t be too careful.”

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

Of course The Burglar Bar would be the closest bar to the psychologist’s office. Carter kept walking, knowing it was a favorite place of Betty’s. While he and his rival ghost hunter might have formed a tenuous friendship, he was in no mood to run into her, especially since so much of his therapy session had been about her and her boyfriend. It was worth walking the few extra blocks to enter the cool darkness of the bar at the Pink House. The snug space in the basement of the historic mansion was quiet at this time of day, and Carter sat at the far end of the bar, as far from the few other patrons as possible. Carter barely looked at the bartender, and his voice was distracted as he said simply, “Martini.”

6. 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)?

My best characters show up in my mind pretty fully formed, and the opening chapters of a novel are when I get to know them. I carefully observe the decisions they make and the things they say, tweaking the text until it suits their personality. Often, after that “getting to know you” stage, my characters seem to act on their own. I don’t feel like I’m creating them anymore: they are autonomous beings, and I’m simply following in their wake, writing down everything they say and do.

Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Carter is my favorite. His snobbish attitude meant he often said or did things that surprised me. I’d be typing a manuscript while thinking, “Really, Carter? Can you really be that much of a jerk?” He often disappointed me in the first two Betty Boo novels, but I was proud to see his character evolve and grow over the course of the whole series. Carter always felt so real to me!

CD says: I love it when that happens! I usually feel like opening chapters are a "getting to know you" period for my characters as well. Thank you so much for stopping by!

Beth Dolgner started writing short stories at a young age, and having a journalism teacher for a dad certainly set her on the right track. After she graduated from Florida Atlantic University with her degree in Communications, Beth began working as a freelance writer, journalist and public relations representative. 

Georgia Spirits and Specters, Beth's first non-fiction book, debuted in the spring of 2009 and was followed by “Everyday Voodoo” in 2010. Beth made her fiction debut in October of 2011 with the paranormal romance Ghost of a Threat, the first in the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter series. She is also the author of the young adult steampunk novel Manifest.

Beth and her husband Ed live in Atlanta, Georgia, with their four cats. Beth is online at www.BethDolgner.com. Her books are available in paperback, Kindle and Nook formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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