I am often asked about the characters in my stories, whether they are based on real people or if they are fictional. I understand the question, as since much of my writing is “historical fiction”, it often means that the context of the stories are based on historical facts, events that have a basis in history, where real people lived and interacted with those events.
The answer to that question is “both”. Often the characters in my stories have some resemblance and basis to real people I have met and know that lived through the historical events being recorded. Other times the characters are purely created for purposes of the story. In almost all cases the names of the characters have been created, although there are times, I choose the names to honor people that I know.
So, for instance, the main Character in my first series is a man I have named Glenn Hitch. There is no one by that name who experienced the events as I portrayed them, but I deliberately chose the name Glenn to honor my grandfather, whose name was also Glenn. Much of the description of Glenn is based on my memory of my grandfather’s personality. While he never served in the military, my character in my story has the deep faith of my grandfather. He was of Dutch ancestry, and his farm is the setting for several of my novels.
Other names and even some of the characteristics of the characters are also based on people I know. So another example of this is the two boys who are climbing on the Harridan Wall in England and are part of the discovery of the scrolls in my latest story “Eyewitness – Tears of the Saints” are based on two of my younger brothers, James and John, and the physical descriptions of them are how I remember them as young boys, and their mischievousness is exactly how I remember my two brothers. I could envision both of my brothers doing exactly what my characters did.
In one of my stories, “Intervention”, one of the secondary characters is based on a real person. I dedicated Intervention to Allan Tibbels. Allan Tibbels really was a quadriplegic man, who I had the great privileged of knowing and serving with in one of the churches we both attended. He really did work in Sandtown, a disadvantaged area in Baltimore MD, where he moved to work among the poor and bring the love of Christ to that area in Baltimore. He did give up a comfortable home in Ellicott City and moved to the close to ghetto area, where he was instrumental in bringing New Song Church to that area, and with Habitat for Humanity helped change the lives of hundreds of families in that area. So much of that part of the story in “Intervention” is real.
In that same story, Minh is based on the story of a young Vietnamese man who had served as a translator for the Billy Graham crusade to Vietnam, and who escaped Saigon on a boat with three disillusioned Viet Cong soldiers who fled the fall of that city and were part of the first boat people to flee to Thailand. I heard that story during one of the mission meetings I attended in the 1980’s. I never knew the name of the actual man, but the story I was told became part of the drama that is found in the story.
There are many other characters in my stories that are not based on real people. But I have had the privileged of meeting and hearing many people’s stories and those stories have aided me greatly in developing many of the characters in my novels. But as so many will say, “the names of the characters have been changed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent, and no person should assume that I am talking about them.” Of course many of the events are also of my own creation, and are not tied to the experiences of any person.
Finally, in my latest Novel, “Eyewitness – Tears of the Saints” the characters are based on the very real people found in the gospel of John. The scripture does not name the blind man. But historical tradition does give him a name. “The restored one” or Celidonius, is how history remembers him. I chose to give him the name “Cain” whose name harkens back to “the Marked One” who was banished by God for the first murder ever committed. I chose the name because of being “Marked” and the blind man was “marked” by his blindness. So, I hope this blog answers some of the questions of readers related to my characters.
In my next blog I will be discussing some of the theology behind the “Spiritual Conflict” setting for my novels. I will discuss why I selected Ephesians 6:12 as the theme verse of the first series, and also why I chose to call that first series “The Steward Series.” I will also discuss why I have chosen the new series to be called “The Eyewitness” series. I hope to answer some more of the questions related to my books.
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com. Also please drop by and listen to my podcasts that can be found on www.charlesadeandrade.com where I also try to cover other topics related to my novels. Also, you can support my writing efforts by buying one of my books on www.scribblersweb.com or at www.southernpenbookshop.com or at Amazon or anu other book store.
Thanks for reading this. Let me know if you like the additional insight into my books. Merry Christmas everyone!
Grace and Peace,
Charles A de Andrade
I’ve always known that my grandparents farm played a key role in my life. My earliest memories were going to granddad and grandmom’s farm in Michigan. My parents regularly visited their place for the one summertime family vacation every year. But even before it became our regular family vacation, it was the place my parents shipped me off to, every time a new brother or sister was being born. I am the oldest of seven children, so that meant I got to spend the most time on the farm.
The memories of sitting in the front yard there and watching the earth movers come in and change the one lane dirt road into a two-lane paved highway, would forever shape my curiosity about the construction industry. God’s providence would permit me to spend most of my vocation years in the construction industry.
Other memories, of the teeth chattering cold water artisan well fountain, that sat in the courtyard between the Quonset hut and the main house, the vegetable garden on the other side of the Quonset hut, the chicken coop where Uncle George’s fighting cock took exception to my harvesting of the eggs, and the smell of the freshly harvested oak/wheat grains as I road in the back of the tractor cart shoveling the grain away from the conveyor spout attached to the thresher, are indelibly engrained in my memories and became the soil from which much of the settings in my books sprang to life.
I learned of the need to plow the ground, exposing the many stones, that seemed to be birthed every spring at the plowing. My grandfather wasted nothing, as even those bothersome stones were collected in the cart being pulled by the cleat tractor. I was charged with walking behind the cart and picking up the exposed stones for future reclamation into the cart.
I spent hours smelling the freshly plowed soil and experienced first-hand the truth in the parables that Christ used so often to prick the minds of his audience. The small spring behind the barn, often watered what would become the award-winning tallest corn stalks displayed at the yearly country fair. The watermelons, grown beside the septic tank, when cooled by the artisan fountain, were one of the sweetest experiences of my life.
And then there was their sunroom, just off the kitchen, with the trumpet bushes outside the windows that would draw the many hummingbirds that would dart among the blooms, that became my entertainment many evenings before bed. Their seeming stationary flight, with wings moving so fast as to be invisible, yet allowing a precision in motion that was beyond memorizing. They knew I was watching, but they seemed unconcerned by my observation, as if they understood the curiosity of one called steward by the creator.
It was no surprise to me, that when I started to write, that the farm and the experiences I had there, became the setting for two of my books. Both Damaged Goods and Homecoming share memories of that farm. It was easier for me to place the activity in an area that I knew and loved well.
In my book Intervention, much of the setting takes place in Baltimore, Maryland, where my family lived for most of my life. I had always wanted to go to John Hopkins University but instead went to Towson State College (now University) because I could not afford the tuition at Hopkins. However, downtown Baltimore, the Sandtown area and the work by Alan Tibbels and the Habitat for Humanity chapter he founded are all important parts of that book. Even my brief memories of John Hopkins served as a portion of the setting of the book.
I learned early on that it was easier for me to write stories, based on areas I had visited or lived in. Somehow those settings seemed easier to describe and far more realistic in my portrayal of the locations.
Picking the setting for my latest novel, Eyewitness – Tears of the Saints, was both easier and more difficult. The blind man found in John 9 is placed in the village of Bethany, about two miles outside of Jerusalem The scripture clearly defines the location of the events recorded. So, there was never any doubt where a significant part of that story would take place. The fact that Lazarus, Mary and Martha were also inhabitants of that same village was an amazing tidbit of information that gave me much freedom in the development of the relationship between the blind man and Mary.
But I have never been to Bethany. How was I going to develop what it must have been like to reside in that village? Fortunately, we live in the time of the internet, and an amazing amount of photographic experience was available for me to explore that location. In that exploration I came across the pictures of the pool of Salome where the blind man went to wash away the mud created from Christ’s spit and the earth of the ground, that resulted in the man receiving eyeballs where none had existed before.
Those pictures became the setting for the artist and friend I hired to create the cover of the book. Still, much of the experience was not as personal for me, as in the earlier books, when I used my own experience of the location to aid in the narrative.
As I begin work on the next book in the Eyewitness series, I look forward to another experience that may become available to my wife and I. The church I attend regularly plans trips to Israel and the area where much of the events that will be the foundation of the next book take place. I long to walk the pathways of Bethany, and to look upon the tomb where Lazarus was laid the first time he died, as he rested waiting for the Christ to raise him.
It is no wonder that so many authors with the money to afford research travel include in their writing plans visits to the various areas in the world that will be the basis of their stories. So many writers have already learned the value of knowing personally the area that is the setting for their novels. Many authors, like myself, use areas they are personally aware of. Nicholas Sparks, comes to mind with so many of his novels taking place on the coast of North Carolina where he lives. And still others, like CS Lewis, use their hometowns, ( in Lewis’s case, London), as the backdrop of their stories.
You can find out more about my books, and explore the settings of those stories at either www.charlesadeandrade.com or www.scribblersweb.com.
In my next blog I will discuss the development of some of the characters in my stories. I often get asked whether the characters represent actual people, or if they are totally made up individuals. I will be exploring the answer to that question in December’s posting.
Grace and Peace,
Charles A de Andrade