The novel was certainly a challenge to write and not only did it compose of multiple drafts but it also went through a major restructure of the story from the point of view of location. Originally to be based in the region of Catalonia, Spain, the location moved to Connemara and Dublin, Ireland. With the change of location, came about the rewrites for the landscape, cultural changes, and change of names.
Despite all of that, I never faltered and continued with the complex character driven story. I employed different techniques and styles to enhance the telling of the story, using, photos, journal entries, flashbacks, foreshadowing, setups, payoffs, etc.
Both characters; Johanna Cahill and Francesco Romano, were challenging, especially Francesco, the Italian artist who at the age of seventy nine is crippled with arthritis. It was certainly a challenge to get inside his head and more importantly, his body. The physical inabilities had to be overcome in order for him to investigate his host, Johanna Cahill and attempt his escape from being under house arrest. I must admit, I did have a huge block during a few chapters, of how Francesco’s character could actually move forward with the story, considering his incapacitated state. Journal entries have been used to explore the life of Francesco and are a good technique when informing the reader of a character’s back story. This makes for an interesting read and it is told through the first person point of view, helping the reader to understanding the thoughts of Francesco as he relives his youth, his love of men and how he fell in love with Isabella Simmons. The uses of photographs are a powerful tool to help Francesco in his investigation.
Johanna Cahill on the other hand was equally challenging. From the initial attempted rape by her father which created her strong disciplined state of mind to her emotional breakdown, along with how she planned and carried out her murders. I found the research fascinating on discovering multiple different ways you can murder someone, whether it is silently, quickly or slowly. Research can be fun and should never be overlooked, adding authenticity to the story.
Another major challenge in writing The Portrait of Isabella Simmons was in keeping many aspects of the characters past lives hidden from each other and additionally keeping the reader in the dark about many aspects concerning both of the characters. Having a well laid out plan to follow and detailed character profiles assists when writing complex interwoven story lines.
As an author, character development is something I really enjoy. I love the challenge of getting inside the head of the character, to understand the thought process. Johanna proved interesting, especially in understanding how she thinks and why she takes the actions she does. As an author I needed to take calculated risks with her decision making, ensuring they would relate to her character traits and with her plans of deception.
Discover more on The Portrait of Isabella Simmons and its complex characters on its home page:
The Portrait of Isabella Simmons
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Discover more on Ben Kesp, author and writer on the Ben Kesp Website.