Monday, May 23, 2011

PICTURE OF LIES - Keegan Thomas

While PICTURE OF LIES was in development, I put a lot of thought into my main character, Keegan Thomas. The journey on which I planned to send her required a certain temperment and personality as I wasn't going to make things easy for her. She needed to have a good amount of courage and perserverence despite some personal character flaws that could easily paralyze someone into inaction.

As an investigative reporter, her goal in the story is to find people in a fifty-year-old photograph, and discover the whereabouts of a little Navajo girl, now an adult, who was kidnapped by missionaries and never returned. Can you imagine the determination required to do this? It's what she finds out during her inquiries that really tests her mettle. So I had to make her extremely extroverted, driven, and aggressive when it came to things she felt strongly about.

And what I like about her most is that she is able to do her job despite the terrible pain she feels over losing her own child. In her mind, she's to blame her child went missing. She feels responsible, feels that if she'd been a better mother, it would not have happened. After all, she was right there on that same foggy beach .

The stress of keeping it together manifests itself in some mild OCD behaviors. In the throes of anger or stress, Keegan finds herself compulsively counting things - the number of people in the restaurant, the number of black cars that go through a certain intersection before the light turns red, the number of uprights in a wrought iron fence. This quirk does not get in her way. Strangely, it helps her focus so she can move forward. She really needs that focus later when she finds herself stranded in the wilderness, and again at the end of the book when she's at the wrong end of a gun.

Have I modeled this character after myself? Well, maybe, but it's a better, stronger, prettier, taller, thinner, more inquisitive, impulsive, and courageous version of me. Oh, and younger.

The story thread about the missing Navajo child kidnapped by missionaries was inspired by a true event. The real kidnapped child was found and reunited with his natural family while I lived on the Navajo Indian Reservation as a VISTA volunteer.

And if you notice the acknowledgement at the front of the book to Two Spirits - that's true, too. Watch Independent Lens on PBS on June 14 for the real story.

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