Sean Arthur Cox's latest update for The Professional Corpse

Jul 15, 2016

I’m still new to this whole Inkshares thing, and I don’t know entirely what to do with updates, but...

Currently, I’ve got the book with a few people combing through for typos and what not. Story-wise the book is about the best I think I can get it right now, so unless we hit that 750 pre-orders, it’s not going to get a big professional overhaul from a narrative standpoint. As such, once I’ve gotten the feedback and had a chance to read over it one more time, I’ll start feeding more chapters, rather than just the prologue and the first couple chapters that are up (the getting to know our protagonists bits). 

So, since the drafting is mostly done for now, I figured to keep things interesting and keep communication flowing in this, our author-reader relationship, I’d give a bit of a peek into my process.

In my first novel, New Tricks, at one point, William injures his leg, and for the rest of the book, I couldn’t remember which leg I’d injured. I couldn’t always remember what Marcus Bloodstone looked like. I had a fuzzy idea, but I was constantly referring back to see what I had established, what I was accidentally changing. I literally kept pictures cut from magazines and pasted to index cards for reference.

Then, a year later Pinterest came out, which is an outstanding tool for keeping names, faces, locations, ideas in one location. And many years later, long after having written the first draft of this book and several others, I finally got around to actually using it.

I have since created a board on Pinterest for this book for readers to get a little idea what I see in my head when I write these characters. Note, these are approximations, best representations for what I had in mind.

For Olivia, I wanted someone sincere, someone a little nerdy, funny, someone who could just as easily flirt her way out of trouble as she could disappear completely into a crowd. I ended up going with Jesse Meriwether in my mental casting because she’s hilarious in the commercials she’s done (she was the woman in the Orbit gum commercial who called the other lady the lint licker). She’s got geek streak a mile wide. She’s versatile. What’s more, she’s from my hometown and went to high school with some friends of mine!

For Houston, I actually had it pretty easy keeping things consistent. When I published New Tricks, I did a contest that I don’t even remember except to say that I had one* and the winner got to be in my next book. Houston won. So I named a character Houston and gave him a few of the real Houston’s personality quirks. Originally, he was supposed to die in The Professional Corpse, but he was so much fun, I kept him alive and made him a recurring character in future books. To protect the real Houston’s privacy, I’ve recast him as an amalgam of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, but happier and a touch more goofy. The real Houston does improv, and my kid’s baby blanket has a quilt square from a t-shirt for an improv festival with Houston’s outline on it.

Bill Thompson needed to be old, but full of vitality and mirth. And he’s a lecherous old coot, but not attractive, so he needed to be charming, the kind of guy who immediately breaks down your defenses because you can’t help but like the guy so much. Jack Lemmon seemed a perfect fit. 

Nick Presario needed to have a predator’s intensity, someone attractive but oozing with a hidden danger, a ruthlessness lurking just out of sight. Cillian Murphy has range and is great in everything he does, but when he puts on a suit and gets that look... that’s the way I envision Nick Presario.

The Marquis never really had a face in my mind. He was 100% personality, because to me at least, it didn’t matter what he looked like. He could be unwashed and penniless in the morning but by dinner, have talked his way into someone’s clothes and mansion and convinced them they owed him for the pleasure. He’s everything Nick Presario thinks he is (and deep down inside, if he’s being honest, wishes he were). If you gave Nick two hundred years’ practice, you’d have the Marquis. So instead of looking for a consistent face, I went for images that captured class, that captured the sort of air that exuded power, trust, and superiority. Someone who seemed to be your best hope for everything, someone you could confide in, someone who you would trust completely until the moment when he springs and you are torn to shreds in his claws, and even then, you might feel honored to have been eaten by him. 

So yeah. There you go. A little insight into my process and a little glimpse at the images that play out in my head before I move them to paper. Until next time, enjoy the ride, enjoy the story, and tell your friends!

*I remember the contest. It was, "If you could like like anyone and you knew you couldn’t die, what would you do?" Houston’s was my favorite, and when faced with that hypothetical in the book, fictional Houston uses the same response.