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Shelia O’Flanagan’s Who’s Who of her Favourite Characters

Favourite Characters? To be honest, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite character because all of the women in my novels have become like best friends to me and I always want to do justice to their stories. But for various reasons, some of them have lingered with me longer than others and they’re probably the ones I’d like to be friends with on Facebook if they were real people (which to me they are!)

Imogen (The Missing Wife Imogen was a happy-go-lucky child when she was very young, adored by everyone around her. But when her circumstances changed she had to adapt over and over again, which she found very difficult. When she meets Vince, she’s excited about finally putting down roots of her own – only to find that being married to him means more changes than she ever could have imagined.

I grew really close to Imogen when I was writing about her because her story is all about rediscovering the person you are inside, and having the courage to find yourself again. Imogen’s journey is physical as much as emotional – she leaves her home and husband without telling anyone why, not even her closest friend.

I love how she tries really hard to deal with her past, her present and her future by herself, but gradually realises that there are more good people than bad in the world, that it’s OK to makes mistakes and that they don’t define you forever. There’s a core of inner strength in Imogen that she rediscovers and that’s why writing about her was so satisfying for me.

Carlotta (If You Were MeCarlotta is a very successful business consultant, super-organised and with an almost photographic memory which is useful in her corporate life. She’s engaged to a successful ophthalmologist, and the only fly in the ointment is that his mother has very old fashioned views about the priorities for married women – she thinks Carlotta should be putting his needs before hers. However, Carlotta is pretty sure she can deal with a narky mother-in-law – she deals with difficult businessmen all the time.

Things start to unravel for her when she misses a train on a business trip to Seville and she unexpectedly finds herself face-to-face with her childhood sweetheart.

The early part of the story is set in Seville which is a hot, passionate city, and that has a big impact on Carlotta’s own emotions. Her story is about finding out what’s important to her as a person- is she carefree and romantic or sensible and practical – and I enjoyed her struggle in trying to discover where her true feelings lie.

Claire (How Will I Know?) A few years after the death of her husband in a jet-ski accident on holiday, Claire is still grieving and struggling not to get upset when people suggest that it’s time she was ‘out there’ again. The only thing that’s keeping her going is her daughter Georgia, who was also injured in the accident and who’s now a teenager. Claire has to cope with her own feelings, as well as offer advice to Georgia, who’s starting to grow up.

Claire is like every mother, wanting to do the best for her daughter. But she still finds it difficult to find joy in anything. How Will I Know? is about rediscovering your resilience, which is what Claire has to do even though it’s hard. I love how she eventually keeps challenging herself even though stepping outside the front door is an effort at times. Part of the reason I put her in these circumstances is that although people do eventually manage to accept the loss of a loved one, you’re never the same afterwards, and you have to learn to live with your changed self, which is what Claire finally manages to do.

Isobel (Isobel’s WeddingPeople often ask me if there’s much of me in the characters in my books and I always say there has to be a little part of me because I’m writing them. But Isobel is the complete opposite of me in a million ways. She’s about to get married and has gone a bit Bridezilla about it all, obsessing about every detail but especially the dress, which she’s making herself. (That’s a big difference between us, I can barely sew on a button.)

When it all goes wrong for Isobel and her boyfriend calls the wedding off with less than a fortnight to go, she’s utterly devastated. I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted but after a period of feeling sorry for herself, Isobel heads off to a new job in Madrid where she embraces her inner social butterfly before having to make choices about her future.

Isobel is one of my early characters and I still remember her very fondly. She makes lots of mistakes but in the end she faces up to what she wants from life and not what she thinks is expected of her. So many readers asked for a sequel to her story that I brought her back in my short story collection, Connections.

Domino (Stand By MeIn Domino’s story she moves from being a gawky teenager to the glamorous wife of a successful property developer, only to see it all come crashing down when his business goes bust and he skips the country, leaving her to deal with the subsequent mess. Domino’s story is one of picking yourself up and starting over, even when you’ve been utterly betrayed, and that betrayal is played out in public.

She’s a character who really changes over the course of the novel, from someone who’s always depended on other people to someone who learns to stand on her own two feet and look after herself. I loved how she eventually faces up to her new reality and how she makes hard choices that she knows are the right ones. I think she ends up being one of the strongest of all my characters and I’m very fond of her.

Shelia O Flanagan’s latest book is The Missing Wife available in hardback and eBook editions. The paperback edition will be available 9th March 2017.

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