• Stephanie Carroll

How I Created my character John Dorr

If you haven't read my novel A White Room yet, John Dorr is the man our heroine Emeline is pressured to marry. Her relationship with his is rocky and being that the novel is from her perspective, the reader only knows what Emeline does and she doesn't know much about John for the majority of the book. So here's a close look at this - at times - misunderstood character.

This is the actual photo I used as my inspiration for John Dorr. I oftentimes use photos of real people or places to figure out how to describe characters and settings. John's character was also inspired by the character Walter Fane in The Painted Veil and let’s not forget Mr. Darcy. He is cold and distant, and we don’t know what he is thinking until we discover that there was so much behind that sophisticated and distant facade. I have to admit that many of my readers have expressed that they just don't get him, so that's why I thought we should sit down and get to know Mr. John Dorr. I had many intentions with John's character. First, I wanted to play with a very intoxicating type of relationship, the kind that takes you on a roller coaster of vulnerability and ultimately revenge, at least in my personal experience. I'm referring to the situation of wanting someone who doesn’t want you back, and when you finally decide to stop pining after that person, he suddenly wants you. You have the power. What do you do with that power? Exactly what he did to you. ;-) I have something of a fixation with this type of relationship because (uhumm, feel free to laugh) it’s what my now husband of 10 years and I had when we first met as teenagers. Yes our ignoring and revenge cycle turned into love, awwww. Honestly, the experience of it was very intense and kind of thrilling, and I don’t think I did it enough justice on this first go, so don't be surprised if you see it come up in some type of future work. Wait! Important side note. Even though the relationship between my characters was inspired by my own, John is not supposed to be my husband and Emeline is not supposed to be me. Okay, let's carry on. Another big point with John was to reveal that things aren’t always what we assume, which was combined with my take on feminism. The majority of this book is very woman oriented and could almost be seen as biased against men. As a women’s history major, I know that is often how women’s history and feminism are perceived because it's difficult to focus on women without ignoring men. When you really look at both sides, however, men were going through their own sexist and historical struggles too. I intentionally wrote John as a mystery, but the reveal of his side at the end was really supposed to help people see who he was and what his previous actions actually meant. He shows up to console Emeline the day her father dies. He was there to see her, but shy about telling her directly. Instead he suggests his parents sent him to check on the family. At the funeral, he helps her get out of the party before she gets sick, and before that, he is trying to offer himself as a shoulder for her to cry on. If you go back through the book, you can see how all his actions were really misunderstood by Emeline. He liked her, but then his father informs him that he will marry her to save the Evans family. Even though John had feelings for Emeline, he wasn't yet in love with her, and he was told to marry her. Naturally, he felt resistant emotionally and even though he liked her, he subconsciously rejected her to rebel against his father. His father also insisted he go to Lebellum to work under a shark of a lawyer because John was acting like a guppy. He felt like a failure. We are only seeing things from Emeline’s perspective and in many ways her perspective is very flawed. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be poor, or to be married, or to be a mother, or to have an unwanted pregnancy, or to be a man. She has her judgments and her grudges, but in the end all of those things are stripped away. She realizes John was going through almost the exact same thing she was. He was struggling with an arranged marriage, a lack of purpose in his life, and an emotional rebellion that prevents him from becoming a husband or a lover. Some readers weren’t very happy that I had Emeline and John come together in the end. In fact one of my test readers and a dear friend used some pretty shocking language to describe her objection of this ending. =) Some test readers thought I should have given Emeline a secret lover, but that just seemed too easy. Plus, my intention with this novel was to reveal what life was like for women and to some extent for men, during this time, and turning it into a romance would not create an accurate portrayal. Plus, it's just such a popular way to go, and as I continue to publish books, you might notice that I don’t like to do the popular thing, at least not in my novels.

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