Sandra, thanks for allowing me drop by your blog for a chat.
I did a post for Lauren at The Australian Bookshelf about what I enjoy in the writing process. I love digging into my character’s dark side, finding their secrets and fears. In that post I focused on Ellie Wilding, my heroine in Half Moon Bay.
I thought today I’d share some of the inspiration and details that went into making the character of Nicholas Lawson. He is my favourite hero to date. I’ve always been slightly in awe of the men and women who serve in our armed forces. I’m grateful that they are willing to do the job they do, but I always wonder how they process those experiences once they return to Australian soil after a tour of duty. Nick owes a lot to those people.
Most of us are aware of the trauma that our Vietnam Vets went through and there’s an increased understanding that many of them still battle post traumatic stress disorder. Nick certainly has some of those issues, but he’s also grappling with the conflict of being someone who joined the Army to make a difference, improve people’s lives. Now he finds himself fighting in a war with unintended consequences and knowing that he will eventually go home to his comfortable life in Australia leaving Afghanistan still an impoverished and battle scarred country growing poppies.
It’s a moral dilemma that, as a commanding officer, he needs to keep private. As a leader he needs to uphold the official line because in a fire-fight on the front line there can be no hesitation or doubt – it will only lead to death and failure.
I spoke to several young men who’ve done repeat tours of Afghanistan. They are wary of discussing too much and there’s an intensity about them which probably comes from that focus during their time abroad. I think the current debate, in the aftermath of the horrific murder of the British soldier in London, about whether our armed forces should wear uniform in public is a sad reminder that even when they are on home soil, safety is not assured.
Nick’s also deeply effected by Nina’s death. Ellie’s sister may have put herself in harm’s way, but for Nick the fact he didn’t manage to get her out alive leaves a deep and abiding guilt, which he struggles to rationalize. I often think those who return from war with motional trauma have a hard time readjusting, because we treat them as though they aren’t injured. They don’t appear to have a disability, but often those emotional scars are every bit as debilitating as physical injuries.
Nick is unashamedly gorgeous. He’s my first hero who took my breath away when he turned up for work - think a cross between George Clooney and Hugh Jackman. Physically imposing, with dark Italian good looks from his mother, he’s not vain, but he looks damn fine in boardies and t-shirt, and not too shabby in a suit! I did try and find his flaws, but in many ways it suited him that he’s beautiful on the outside and so damage on the inside. It also adds to Ellie’s distrust of him. All that charm makes her assume the worst… He’s going to have to work hard to win her trust.
He’s a sucker for the underdog and I think that’s something which we consider to be an integral part of the Australian psyche. He’s a man’s man in the best sense of the word, but the close bond with his sister and his mother allows him to occasionally admit to a softer side, one that likes beautiful things around him.
I think the quality I love most about him though is his empathy, his compassion. It adds to his conflict as he goes about his job feeling the pain of those his work is affecting. Nick body surfs and rides a board and what’s not to love about broad shoulders, great biceps and a toned body! (You can tell I grew up on a beach myself and I still argue those guys have the best physiques!) So that’s my beautiful Nick. A wounded hero, but a compassionate man with a strong need to help.
What’s your favourite hero? Alpha males or more a beta sensitive new age guy? How about an intellectual who can still raise a sweat with some well placed muscles? Or a nurturing healer who fights fires or crime? Love to hear about your favourites.
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Half Moon Bay
Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it's finally time to return home. As an international photojournalist, she's used to violence in war zones, but she's shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.
Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie's sister, Nina, was shot and killed.
Ellie's been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn't remember him…
As a storm rages and floodwaters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson, the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who's never let her down?