Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Characters who stick - Jen Black and Matho Spirston

When I wanted a foil for Harry Wharton's cheerful charm, I came up with Matho Spirston. His is a peasant against Harry’s gentry background, and he has a dour and very practical common sense approach to life. I think of him as a typical male of the Northumberland region, from his dry, cynical humour and outspokenness to his strong sense of purpose. He’s never been further north than Otterburn, but in my wip he sets off with Harry for Edinburgh because Harry asked him to, and there’s an outside chance he may make some money while he’s at it. 

Almost everything that happens once they set off is a learning curve for Matho. By using deep third point of view, I can filter the events of the day through him, and let readers know how he feels about maybe having to kill someone, if he misses the ritual of mass, or how the Borderers feel about armies tramping through their crops and thieving their cattle and sheep as provisions. Matho’s real adventures begin in a book as yet unpublished, but he first graced the page in Fair Border Bride, initially published as a paperback Till the Day Go Down, which was really Harry and Alina's story. (When the company turned up its toes, I re-edited and self-published the story as Fair Border Bride.)

He was a lowly Guard Captain at Aydon, the home of the Carnaby family and had grown up with Alina, the daughter of the family. When Harry falls foul of Alina Carnaby's father, Matho decides to help Alina save Harry's life. In doing so, he admires Harry's courage and thinks he lacks common sense. Matho is very much the leader when  Alina is kidnapped.

As a character, Matho just grew and grew in my mind, to the point I started writing of his journey. His friendship with Harry led him in directions he would never have expected. The final polishing of his story is nearing an end, and then I'll have to let Matho rest while I try and find an agent and a publisher for him. I have a rough draft of his next adventures, and I think he'll be with me for a long time yet.


Harry gripped the bars of the grill. “I swear,” he said, his voice strong and steady, “that I have done nothing, and will do nothing, that will bring hurt or harm to the people of Aydon.”
Matho shifted, trying to get a good look at Harry. Harry moved further into the shaft of moonlight. He sensed that something good might come of this exchange.
“Aye, well. Tomorrow. There’s nowt as’ll change Carnaby’s mind once it’s made up. He hates the family Scott to the last wee de’il in it, and since ye were daft enough to say ye name was Scott, he’ll have ye tossed off the crag, ne doubt aboot it. But there’s summat…”
“What? What, man?” Hope rose in Harry’s chest like bubbles of air through water. He thumped his chest to be rid of the pressure they caused.
“A wee chance, maybe, if ye’re a lad wi ye wits about ye. The Master hasn’t noticed yet, but a tree came down a day or two back, an’ it lies fair across the gully below the crag. If ye were to hop onto it, like as not ye’d be able to shimmy down and get clean away.”
“How far down is it?”
“Ten feet, maybe.” A grin slid over the solid Northumberland features. “Figurin’s no my strong suit, y’knaw.”
“And below that?”
Matho looked him straight in the eye. “Nowt but the Ay burn.”

Fair Border Bride, available on Kindle.

Posted by Jen Black

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