If there were an unsung heroine in The Deception, it would have to be Billie Hughes. A former model turned FBI agent, Billie and Carrie, a former child model, quickly form a strong bond. Her specialty is white-collar crimes, and she’s one of the agents in charge of the investigation when Carrie’s identity is stolen. Billie is in her forties, and, while not mentioned in the final manuscript, she’s also the mother of a grown son.
Billie is a purely fictitious character, but she and her partner, Agent O’Dell, are inspired by, and loosely based, on a neighbor I had many years ago who was also an FBI agent. He was a hardworking professional who put his life on the line each and every day to help make the world a safer place for the rest of us.
Like many authors, I write a treatment before I start writing the actual novel. A treatment is a brief written summary, a blueprint if you will, of who the characters are and what the story will be about. It helps solidify ideas and creates a starting point. Once I start writing, however, I put the treatment aside and let my characters loose. When the novel is complete, I’ll go back and look at the original treatment. To say the final story turned out differently would be an understatement. So, just for laughs, I’m posting what was in the original treatment for The Reunion. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the plot for those of you who haven’t read it yet, but those who have will probably find this post a lot of fun.
Many of the main points from the original treatment were included the final novel, such as Ian showing up unexpectedly at Gillian’s opening at a Denver art gallery, and her returning to Denver later on to hide out from her homicidal ex husband. However, a subplot about Ian selling his house and moving into a condo with his son, Larry, never made it into the final version. Good thing too. It was boring and it did nothing to enhance the story. Likewise, many other scenes in the final novel were never included in the treatment, such as a pivotal moment when Gillian nearly drowns.
The most notable change, however, had to do with the characters themselves. Laura, Ian’s ex wife, was intended to be shy and demure. A savvy businesswoman, she ended up being anything but shy and demure. Laura speaks her mind. That’s why Jeremy is so direct.
And speaking of Ian’s oldest son–Jeremy was originally intended to be a villain. Aggressive, if not nefarious, Jeremy was to only have a small role before being written out. In the treatment, Gillian befriends him and he tries to force himself on her. She, of course, turns him down. Rejected, he soon enlists in the Marines and ends up being deployed to Afghanistan while a furious Ian blames it all on Gillian. Nah, that definitely wouldn’t have worked. Ian wouldn’t have had such an evil son. Then Jeremy told me he wasn’t a bad guy either, although he’s still drawn to Gillian. He would, instead, became a rival, rescuing Gillian and saving her life when she nearly drowns, then competing with his father for her affection. This created a whole new subplot which became the second half of the book. Many readers tell me it was their favorite part of the story.
The end of the story was fairly close to what was in the original treatment. Now I can’t tell you that because it would spoil it for the those who haven’t yet read the novel. Suffice to say that it all works out, and Gillian ends up with the right guy.
They say there are no small roles, only small actors, and I think the same can be said for characters in a novel. And while Samantha may not have a huge role, she’s one of the more memorable characters in The Reunion, as well as one of my personal favorites.
Samantha is the best friend of Gillian, the leading lady. We first meet Samantha in the flashback chapters, early in the novel. Set in the mid-1980s, Samantha is introduced as a twenty-something whose apartment is a few doors down from Gillian’s. While good friends, the two young women are remarkably different from one another. Gillian comes from a well-to-do family in Phoenix, and is studying art at Arizona State University. Samantha, on the other hand, comes from a working-class family in a small mining town in eastern Arizona. (I wasn’t able to include this detail in the novel, but it’s in my character notes.) And while Gillian may be a bit naive, Samantha is more worldly. She’d been studying to be a nurse until she ran out of money, so now she’s working as a waitress at a truck-stop diner where she makes good tips. Her goal is to return to school to complete her degree, once she gets her finances in order.
Along with her down-to-earth personality, Samantha is described as having above average looks. In fact, Ryan Knight, the antagonist in the flashback chapters, makes a rather crass remark about Samantha when he says, “With her looks, I’m sure she turns more than just tables.” But not to worry, Samantha will soon make him regret his choice of words.
Samantha returns, rather unexpectedly, later in the novel. By then the characters are middle-aged, and the story is set in the year 2010. She’s aged well, and she introduces her adult daughter, Cassie. Cassie will soon fall for Jeremy, the son of Ian, the leading man, and they’re also the two leading characters in The Journey.
Samantha was inspired by a neighbor I had when I was in college. Her apartment was a few doors down from mine, and while not a student, she worked at the dog track. She was a real kick in the pants, but she soon moved away, and I never heard from her again. Even after all these years, I still think of her from time to time, and I think she’d be pleased, and honored, with the Samantha character.