Books by Melissa Bowersock

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Favorite Characters: Corporal Patrick Riley

Recently I was interviewed for another blog, and one of the questions put to me was: Which of your own characters is your favorite, and why? Hmm... My first impulse was to examine all the main characters from my books, and there are many that I have great fondness for. However, the one character that I love above all others happens to be a secondary character. He is Corporal Patrick Riley, a striker in my time travel books Finding Travis and Being Travis.

If you're unfamiliar, a striker was an enlisted man in the frontier US Army who was tasked with being a servant and assistant to an officer. The title originally came from the fact that the striker was the one who struck the tent of an officer when the Cavalry was getting ready to move.

In my two-book series, my main character, Lieutenant Travis Merrill, is flung backward in time to 1877 at Camp Verde, Arizona Territory. In my efforts to be completely authentic about his experience, I knew I had to write in a striker for him. During this time, there were many Irish and German men who moved west, looking for the opportunities they did not have in their homelands or in the eastern US, so making Travis' striker an Irish man made sense. I introduced the character with little fanfare and few expectations.

Imagine my surprise when Riley morphed before my eyes into a funny, stoic, steadfast man who said little but saw everything, who kept his own counsel but watched over Travis like a favorite uncle, giving Travis enough rope to hang himself but staying close by to help him untie the knots if need be. As the relationship deepened and grew stronger, I realized I was writing a friendship unlike any I had ever written before. 

Riley has a dry and very wicked sense of humor, and he and Travis learn to talk trash to each other while staying within their bounds of enlisted man vs. officer protocol. Much that passes between them is unsaid, yet they understand each other completely. Riley is the perfect foil for Travis, and ends up stealing every scene in which he appears. 

Who knew a secondary character could come to the fore and embody such heart, such restraint, such compassion? Certainly not me. Maybe that's why I love him. He was a total surprise, and he absolutely makes the books. 

It was as much for him as for Travis that I wrote the sequel.

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