Saturday, March 11, 2017

Where Do My Characters Come From, Part 3

The cover of the book where we meet
Jenn Bezaleel, who becomes Jenn
Shalan. The young lady on the cover
is Courtney Stackpole, a former
It's the third week of my series-within-a-series in which I'm answering questions I get at author events, specifically what inspires the different characters in my books. I've already talked about Harry and Dee Shalan, the titular characters in my Shalan Adventures series. This week, it's their adopted daughter's turn.

For those of you who haven't read the books, Jenn Bezaleel is a runaway that Harry is employed to find. I say Harry instead of Harry and Dee because Dee is dealing with an advanced and complicated pregnancy. But when Harry locates Jenn, who he's discovered has been sexually abused by her father, he calls in Dee to talk with Jenn, figuring correctly that she'll respond more positively to a woman than a man. Long story short, Dee and Jenn fall in love instantly, in the mother-daughter sense. It takes a bit longer for Jenn to warm up to Harry, but eventually, their bond is unbreakable as well. Along the way, we find that Jenn's stepdad, an old friend of her father, has been trying to molest her as well, with the knowledge of her father. So the Shalans take in Jenn, eventually adopting her. So Jenn Bezaleel becomes Jenn Shalan.

So where did I get Jenn's character? The short answer is she is every female student I've ever known and loved like a daughter, which, to some extent, is every one of them. But in reality, and some teachers won't admit this, we bond more closely with some students than others. Over the years, I've had students, male and female, who have gone beyond being students and become friends and even like extended family. I have two former students who were on my speech and debate team years back who are as close as I'll probably ever get to having real daughters. Jenna and Poonam live far away, but stay in touch regularly. They visit me when they can, which isn't often because they have very busy jobs, and I visit them as well. I love them so much that it's hard to imagine being able to love a biological child more. So in that way, she is inspired by them and my unfulfilled desire to have "real" children. I never could, so I do it through Harry.

That having been said, Jenn is really none of them. As I've said before, Jenn has the face of a former student named Courtney, who kindly agreed to be the cover model for the book, but the resemblance
Jenna and Poonam with me, along with
Jenna's husband Mitch.
is superficial. I didn't base Jenn on any one of those young ladies. She is, in the truest sense, a character I created from scratch. Yes, she resembles many of my former students and even some of my friends, but only in the most generic sense. I could point to lots of women I've met over the years who share some of her traits, but not enough that I could say that I based that trait on any of them. Similar to Dee, Jenn is my idealized vision of an adopted daughter. She's been through a lot and she needs protection, but she hasn't let it misshape her to the point that she's incapable of love. She's smart, loving, enjoys being taken care of but is independent at the same time. She's taken the awful things that have happened to her and channeled them into a desire to help others who are being hurt by someone in power over them, which is why she wants to follow in her adopted parents' footsteps.

So, to sum up, Jenn Shalan is inspired by every female student I've ever known, but based on none of them. That may or not make sense, but it's the truth.


  1. I am enjoying this post series. :)

  2. Series of posts. Yeah.... that sounds better.

    1. Haha, I like that you like it, no matter what you call it.