A while ago, as I began writing a key scene featuring the novel’s shadowy villains, I appealed to a select few people to name characters for me. I won’t go into the reasons here. Those characters would be members of The Company. Inevitably, they each took on lives of their own, and I found that rather than simply name-dropping them, some of those characters would command whole scenes of their own. Characters can be like that sometimes. They take liberties. Before you know it, you’re mowing their lawns for them.
But there was one person who I hoped would do me the honour of naming a character, and unfortunately she was too poorly to do so. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you she passed away last year. Her plight moved me so much that I wanted to do something in my own small way to show her and her amazing family just how courageous and inspirational she really was. So I decided, in lieu of a name of her choosing, to name a character for her. In fact, I’ve named one after her. This character, rather than being one of the bad guys, is one of the good guys. At the time of writing her into the book, I had no idea how important she would become. But, as the chapter wore on, I came to realise that far from being a namesake character, this person would become pivotal: not just in this book, but in the history of the town in which it takes place, and therefore pivotal in everything I’ll write from this day forward. The character’s name is Claudia Heath, and she is named after a very brave young girl.
Evie chuckled as she fastened the last of her buttons. “There! All done. Ready for your close-up, Miss Gardener?”
Emma scowled. “I hope it goes without saying that nobody ever needs to find out about this.”
Evie was smiling. “There isn’t much about this situation that I can realistically tell people, is there? You need to try and enjoy it! It’s fun! It’s like Mr. Benn! And as if by magic, the scullery maids appeared!” She laughed, but Emma simply looked blankly at her.
“Mr. Benn? The rice guy?”
“That’s Uncle Ben,” Evie said. “Honestly, Emma…you don’t know about Barney or Mr. Benn? You need to talk a long hard look at your life.”