Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Character Wednesday: John Desjarlais

Today John Desjarlais is going to tell us about Selena De La Cruz, an insurance agent who attempts to help the disabled hero of his thriller BLEEDER.

Camille: What made you create Selena?

John: In BLEEDER, protagonist Reed Stubblefield is wounded in a school shooting and retreats to his bother's hunting cabin in rural Illinois to recover. My fictional small town is dealing with a large influx of Latino immigrants working in agricultural operations such as slaughterhouses and canneries. The locals are uneasy about this poor, uneducated population. To balance this, I wanted a positive portrayal of an educated middle-class Latin character and decided to create a female insurance agent who could handle Stubblefield's disability claims. When Selena De La Cruz walked on stage, as it were, in those cherry red high heels and black jeans, with that attitude, and driving that vintage muscle car, I knew she had a story of her own and that she would have a larger role in the novel than I'd anticipated.

Camille: What makes her special to you?

John: Selena is a second-generation Mexican-American woman, and like most Latinas she struggles with her bi-cultural identity, seeking ways to acculturate to New World realities while balancing Old World expectations and traditions. She's an independent Latina (a contradiction in terms for Latino men), a tomboy one minute and a taffeta-gowned princessa the next, tender and tough. I'm fascinated by her family and her culture.

Camille: Ah, does this mean there is some chemistry between Reed and Selena?

John: There were sparks from the get-go but not the good kind - she really couldn't help him with the disability claims and he was furious with her and the whole insurance business. By the end of the book, however, they are meeting to discuss his financial future, and there is a hint that they may get together. It won't be easy: He's all about safety (drives a Volvo), she's all about risk (races a kick-butt muscle car); he's pro-union Democrat, she's pro-business Republican; he can barely count on his fingers, she's a Loyola Finance major; he's uneasy with guns (he was wounded in a school shooting), she's handy with a P226 SIG Sauer pistol; he's Cubs, she's White Sox.

Camille: Aside from just being interesting, do you feel Selena's increased role added something extra to the novel overall? Did you worry about her overwhelming anything in the story?

John: Readers have told me that Selena, despite her limited role, is the most interesting and layered character in the book. She added another dimension to the "Mexican immigration" issue along with some sexual tension. I didn't worry about her 'running off with the story,' as some minor characters can do. But I knew that in the sequel she would either have to be of equal importance as Reed Stubblefield, or become the protagonist -- with Reed, this time, being a minor character. The premise of the story required the latter.

Camille: Then you have more planned for Selena?

John: Selena insisted. The sequel, VIPER, features her as the protagonist. It's due out this summer. Here's the tease:

On All Souls Day, Selena De La Cruz’s name is entered in her parish church's “Book of the Deceased.” The problem is, she's not dead. And someone thinks she should be. Is it "The Snake," a notorious drug dealer Selena helped to put in prison when she was a Special Agent with the DEA years ago? Or someone far, far more dangerous?

You can buy Bleeder at, in ebook or paperback form. You can read more about John Desjarlais at his website Investigate Higher Mysteries, or his blog, Johnny Dangerous.


Brent Nichols said...

That's a neat bit of insight into a character's growing role. Oddly enough, when I think of the characters who've grown beyond what I expected in my books, it's always the tough women for me, too.

The Daring Novelist said...

I can't say it's a particular type of character for me -- they ALL want to tell me their stories.

But I can see where a tough woman would be pushy enough to insist....

johnny dangerous said...

Selena's 'toughness' grows partly out of her bi-cultural struggle for identity, where Mexican girls are expected to be subservient to men. But being educated and from an upper middle-class, Selena resists this gender role and fights the stereotypes of the dependent Latina.
John D