Cristelle, you wrote Ashford Egan as a blind man. Why this disability? Did you always imagine the character this way? Or was it a clearly planned and plotted device?
Thanks for asking! This is such a hard multi-layered question — I’ll do my best to answer it as completely as I can.
The Neve & Egan Cases series has two main characters. Alexandra Neve: a young university student, who’s a bit of a loner whilst also being a little over zealous when it comes to rushing into crazy situations. Ashford Egan: a middle-aged cold, hard professor with a sarcastic streak a mile long.
When I began working on this series and started creating the characters, the only idea I had was: man + woman = investigative duo. From there, I started working on personality traits and physical attributes. I fleshed out Neve first — no particular reason for it, it just happened that way. Then came Egan’s turn and it was all about creating a character who could balance her out. Someone who would allow me room to be creative in my stories, make for some good dialogue, and interesting scenes. To create a strong dynamic between characters, you can always rely on differences; if characters are too similar, stories will be too linear, too boring.
So there I was. I had Neve: young and a little bit naïve — so I made Egan older and wiser and he became a professor. She was the kind, caring type — I made Egan colder and rough around the edges. I didn’t want him to be mean for the sake of being mean though. There had to be a reason, a little something that had made him shut off from the world and become the man he is at the start of book one. Blindness became that reason.
I think it was the best idea I’ve had in a long time — a real stroke of luck. After I thought of that, the rest fell into place on its own. Blindness helped define Neve and Egan’s relationship, helped me give my characters more purpose and room to grow emotionally. Neve tries to make Egan open up and he slowly learns to trust again — it’s a joy to write those moments, amidst the action and the PI cases.
Of course, good ideas often come with a price tag. I knew right from the start that it would be one hell of a writer’s challenge. It’s tricky to write a convincing, realistic blind person when you have both eyes to rely on. I carried out a lot of research, went outside with my eyes closed a few times (and boy, was that scary!). I really wanted to be as accurate as possible; to show Egan in a respectful way. I don’t see him as a victim and hate to think of his blindness as a disability. I really hope I managed to portray him as a strong, independent person; I worked very hard to that end.
One day, I hope to write a novel from Egan’s perspective. It’d be a real technical challenge, but I’d love to try. I still haven’t found the right “case of the week” idea for it yet though… but, one day maybe I will.
Originally posted @ Straight from the Library