On Creating “Brigid Quinn” In My Novels

If you’re a reader over fifty I want you to delight in being who we are.  And if you’re of a younger generation I want you to look forward to what you can become.  In my first novel, Rage Against the Dying, I created a crime drama character named Brigid Quinn.  She’s vibrant, sexually enthusiastic, smart, tough, compassionate, conflicted–and can kill a man with her bare hands.

Besides all that, she’s approaching sixty years old.

Some have a problem with this.  After reading my novel, my seventy year old brother-in-law emailed me:

“. . .I find Brigid a little too ballsy and as a reader (male reader, that is) would love her to be more sexy and clever.    Women who are tougher than my male friends, can inflict grave bodily damage, talk dirty, just don’t make it with me.”

Don, I’m afraid Brigid Quinn can’t be the woman of your dreams.  After retiring from the FBI she joined a book club, learned to cook, tried to fit in to the world she had always sought to protect.  For a while she even kept her past a secret from her beloved husband because she didn’t think he was tough enough to understand.

But when you’ve lived the kind of life Brigid has, when you’re the kind of woman Brigid is, it’s difficult to change.   With most of her career spent undercover, she lived for far too long in the shadow world between the good guys and the bad.  Working with the criminal element and the male-dominated world of law enforcement, she became the woman necessary to survive them both.

And the fact is, Brigid likes herself as is.  She has no need to be that heroine who runs from the villain in her stiletto heels, or a damsel who needs a man to rescue her.  She won’t stop fighting to leave the world a better place than the one she’s in.  In time she may change in other ways, because hopefully we can grow and learn at any age.

But can Brigid Quinn be tamed?  No, I don’t think so.

In A Twist of the Knife, the third book in the series, Brigid gets called back to her childhood home in Florida where her dad is suffering from pneumonia and her mother is suffering from chronic passive-aggression.   Spending time with her dysfunctional family is not her fave thing.  So when an old colleague asks for her help in overturning the conviction of a man on death row for killing his wife and three children, and even though she suspects the man is actually guilty, Brigid’s spirits are lifted.

Taking on the entire criminal justice system–the cops, the courts, the forensic investigators–is easier for her than dealing with her embattled parents.  That is, until Love rears its ugly head and Brigid suspects her colleague is going rogue even more than she herself ever did.

I was talking with someone the other day about how interesting it would be to be able to remember every moment of our lives.  Not just the spotty memories that stick, that your mind tells you are important: the first time a boy brushed his tongue against your lips and how you felt that brush elsewhere all the next day, or going to see Angry Red Planet and spending the whole movie staring in terror at the box of Jujubes in your lap.  How it feels to watch a life end violently.

This is what you remember, but what about all the connections, either mundane or monumental, that we can’t recall?  All that dark matter, the night that connects the stars.  We think the stars are most important, but maybe it’s the stuff in between, the life we’ll never see.  That’s the most important.  The fact is, you may think you know someone else’s story, but you don’t.  How can you, when you don’t even know your own?  Maybe we’re all mysteries that can’t be solved.

Note: For more information on A Twist of the Knife, read our review of the title here.