Read Simon Toyne's exclusive guest blog about his strange protagonist, Solomon Creed, and follow the link at the bottom to claim several free stories from internationally bestselling authors!
Who is Solomon Creed? That’s the big question at the heart of the books I’m currently writing, and it was the first question I had to answer when I started writing them. Some writers start with their characters—or their main character, at least—and let their story grow from there. I’m the other way around. I always know, roughly, what a book is going to be about then set about populating it. This is when I indulge in one of my favorite writerly pastimes of casturbation.
Casturbation, if you are unfamiliar with the term, means the imaginary casting of the movie of your book. I start by setting up a character document and write a list of the people I need to tell the story. This can start off with things as vague as “Corrupt Cop Dude”; it doesn’t really matter at this stage, the details will come gradually. Once I have my list of essential characters, I write a one- or two-line description beneath each name and start trawling the internet for photographs, looking for faces.
This is quite a fluid process; the character descriptions grow as I write the book, and the pictures often change too. I knew that Solomon Creed had to be “other”—not just a stranger but “strange”—so he had to look extraordinary. I also knew I wanted him walking out of the desert at the start.
I’m very visual and have to see things before I can write them, so I use all kinds of visual cues and references. For this opening scene, I re-watched the opening scene of Paris, Texas where the late, great Harry Dean Stanton strides stiffly across a vast landscape and was struck by how odd it was that he was wearing a suit. So I put Solomon in a suit and took away his shoes to add an extra element of oddness. I also re-watched Lawrence of Arabia and The Man Who Fell to Earth and gave Solomon some of the elegant awkwardness and charisma of both Peter O’Toole and David Bowie. In fact, pictures of both stood in for Solomon at various stages of the writing process, though that’s not what he ended up looking like.
Another major element of Solomon’s character is that he is a man with no personal memories, a man wiped clean of his past. I remember staring at a photo of Bowie in his Thin White Duke days—“well hung and snow white tan” (actually that’s Ziggy, but it’s a fluid process, remember)—and I realized Solomon should be the same, only even whiter. A blank sheet of paper of a man. And that’s how he became an albino, someone so white he’s almost uncanny. At one point in the book, he is described by another character as looking like a beautiful marble statue that has come to life. This whiteness also makes him particularly vulnerable to the harsh Arizona sun, which adds to his character and his vulnerability within the story.
So that’s what Solomon Creed looks like, but who is he? Well, that would be telling.
Simon Toyne worked in British television for twenty years. As a writer, director, and producer he’s worked on several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. He lives in England with his wife and family.