Tag Archive | strong characters


Over the weekend I read several blogs about character development. Doing this reinforced my belief that without strong characters, the story will be flat. No one will care. No one will identify with the big picture because you forgot about the most important element–A STRONG CHARACTER who carries the story.

And as I’ve said before, it’s the small details that resonate their humanity. How they look, feel, think, react, and respond are key. Then there’s the surroundings they live in and how they are perceived by others characters.

Since sending off FINDING GESSLER, I’ve become totally immersed in STEPHANIA COMES TO AMERICA–the next novel I  plan for publication in about six months. So once again, I must face Stephania.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know the trouble this character, Stephania, has consistently given, She’s beautiful and willful. She likes getting her own way. She’s selfish and scheming. In a word, she’s a bitch. Stephania

But I can’t write her as a one-dimensional character, so I have been looking for ways to make her vulnerable  I’ve searched for ways for readers to feel empathy toward her, even though she does outrageous things. And that my friends, hasn’t been the easiest thing  to do.

I finally realized the problem lies with me. Because I’m a “What you see is what you get” person, and I’ve never put on a false face to do anything, come hell or high water. I don’t understand Stephania. She’s not in my “wheelhouse.”  Even my vivid imagination has failed me.

So after working on this book for almost a year now, I was pleasantly surprised recently when I had a breakthrough. I let Stephania take control. I stopped driving her and let her take me on the journey she must travel. And it’s working. She’s finally in my head, creating herself as she must. I even had a friend interview me as Stephania  and discovered I know her better than I ever thought I did.

So, hopefully Stephania is not just pulling my leg and letting me take a peek at her right now. I’m praying she doesn’t turn off and tune out in the coming months just to frustrate me further. After all, she could do such a thing; it’s part of her nature. Remember, she is a bitch.

The Review is In

Book cover 3       Cover_immigrantsAbout a month ago, I sent my two books, TEA AND BISCUIT GIRLS, and THE LOVE IMMIGRANTS to a reviewer in Canada. As it was my first time asking for a professional opinion, I was a bit nervous of the outcome. Here’s what she wrote:




by Barbara Celeste McCloskey,

reviewed by Ruth Latta

Barbara Celeste McCloskey is interested in World War II because her parents were of the generation who came of age during that massive conflict. Her interest has led her to write three novels focusing on young women’s lives in wartime: Apple Strudel Girls, (2011), Tea and Biscuit Girls (2012) and The Love Immigrants (2012).

Tea and Biscuit Girls presents two young British women, Katie and Jenny, who meet while working with the Land Army on a Scottish farm, and forge an enduring bond. The Love Immigrants, subtitled “Three War Brides Come to America”, a sequel which can stand on its own, shows Katie, Jenny and Heidi, a German war bride, starting new lives in the U.S. with their American husbands.

McCloskey’s young women characters go through typical rites of passage, including challenging work, romance, pregnancy, childbirth and loss of loved ones. Both Tea and Biscuit Girls and The Love Immigrants made me remember the stories I’ve heard from people who were young during the Second World War. By including Jewish refugee children and a German war-bride in The Love Immigrants, McCloskey broadens and deepens her story. Her research included histories, diaries and first person accounts.

Readers who enjoyed the late great Maeve Binchy’s novel, Light a Penny Candle, which begins with an English child spending the war years in Ireland, will be interested in Katie’s sojourn on a Scottish farm in McCloskey’s Tea and Biscuit Girls. I was convinced that the Scottish aunt and uncle were drawn from life, but McCloskey informed me in an email that they are fictional constructs. She consulted a friend who grew up in Scotland in the 1950s for details about climate, landscape and buildings and consulted a website of Scottish words, to achieve realism. Her ability to create such life-like fictional characters is one of her strengths as a novelist.

The young wives are surprised and pleased by the standard of living in America, but the one whose fabulous New York honeymoon seems to set the pattern for the future is sadly disappointed. The old saying, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure” applies here. Even those wartime couples who had time to get to know each other did so under atypical circumstances.

While a number of real-life war brides I met had a difficult time with in-laws, the fictional women in McCloskey’s novel are welcomed warmly, including the young German woman. The threat from the old girlfriend at home, however, is a plot element in The Love Immigrants.

Many works of fiction have been set during World War II. Two of my favorites are the TV Foyle’s War and the movie Yanks. It is a well-known fact, however, that if one assigned the same topic to a room full of fiction writers, each would come up with something unique. McCloskey’s novels show her flair for exploring women’s friendships and feelings and will attract and educate today’s generation of young woman readers about an intense, dramatic time in history.

Ruth Latta is the compiler and editor of The Memory of All That: Canadian Women’s Memories of World War II, (Burnstown, Canada, General Store Publishing House), available through baico@bellnet.ca