Grace A. Johnson
Meet the Character--Keaton Edward James Clarke
Updated: Sep 2, 2020
So, maybe this is in honor of this week's Name of the Week...or maybe it's in honor of my upcoming release (no date set yet, unfortunately 😥), Bound and Determined, which features Keaton Clarke as its hero and one of the four (yes, there's four) main characters.
Since, of course, Bound and Determined is only halfway finished--and that's not counting editing, cover designing, formatting, publishing, marketing, et cetera, et cetera--I'll skimp on the spoilers. (No, not really. This is a spoiler-ish post, if you count learning the entire backstory of our beloved Keat and his motives and dreams and mushy-gushy personal stuff like that. And there may be an unedited excerpt or two, but I'll give a warning shout before that, 'kay? 'Kay.)
In my last book, Prisoner at Heart, we (and I, to be honest) got a chance to see more of Keaton than we did in Held Captive, and we also got a glimpse into his character and his history later on in the story. As I was crafting Elliot, the hero of PAH and Keaton's best friend, I was also beginning to see the differences between the two and how both of their minds work. So, yeah, I've been wanting to write this post for a long time, but I'm still grasping my character.
I believe the terminology I used back in December, with my last Meet the Character post, was that Elliot is a feeler and Keaton is a thinker. For Elliot, this means that, yeah, he feels anger, and, yeah, since he's so impulsive, he acts on it without a thought. It also means that he feels a lot of compassion, which is evident in this one scene in PAH. (I'll be honest, I never even saw this coming until, suddenly, I was writing an apology and I realized that Elliot had been a wee bit selfish. It was a really fun scene.)
"For so long, Crimson Wilde had been a name no better than a curse. A girl you’d want to avoid, a threat, an enemy. A reminder of the pain inflicted upon Rina and myself. But now...the more I was around her, the more I learned about her, the more I realized that she wasn’t just another Wilde, cold-hearted and cruel. She was a beautiful girl who hurt, who had pain of her own, memories that haunted her.
She was more than just a name. She was a face with eyes deeper than the ocean. She was wrists that had been scarred. She was a mother without her child. She was a heart that had been broken.
'I’m so sorry, Crimson.' His voice was painfully sincere, but instead of making me feel better, easing the pain, it only fanned a flame that I’d thought long burned-out.
'I didn’t tell you for pity, Mr. Fulton,' I growled, struggling against his hold. Pity was the last thing I wanted, exactly what I didn’t need. What everyone gave, no matter the problem. Which was why I preferred to keep my problems to myself.
Elliot didn’t release me. In fact, I could’ve sworn he held me tighter. 'I didn’t mean it that way, little Wilde. I meant that I’m sorry for treatin’ you like just that, like you’re nothin’ but a Wilde. I’m sorry for what happened to you, yes. But mostly, I’m sorry for bein’ so fed up with myself an’ my anger that I didn’t notice that other people hurt too.'
He was apologizing for the way he’d treated me. For being blind to things not there for him to see. Wow. Rina must’ve really gotten to him. Because no one I’d ever met would ever be so...so apologetically sweet. Which didn’t make sense to even me, but I had made my point.
Elliot Fulton wasn’t like Jonas. Like Da, Randal, any other man in my life. He felt. He cared. He understood."
And, yes, I did omit a couple paragraphs up there. I have creative license, y'all, so no judgement. And, yes, wow was actually a word in the 1600s. In fact, it's been a Scottish exclamation for about 500 years--which was why I was so happy to use it in Crimson's POV.
Anyway, the point is that I saw something in Elliot there, something that triggered my looking deeper into Keaton. And this is what I've discovered...
“’At times, he’s the most definable, vivid, and pragmatic sort of person, running as smoothly as the gears of a clock. Then others, he is a dark, distant, smoldering man with a depth far beyond his years. Sometimes, he has the attitude of a child—fantastical, whimsical, hopeful, creative. Dreaming. Then night falls along with his nightmares, and all else drifts away.’”
Keaton Clarke was born in Cambridgeshire, England, in the year 1659. He grew up in a small farming village, raised by his father Edward Clarke, a cobbler, and his mother, Scottish-born Eliza MacAuley Clarke. Due to his Scottish ancestry--which, granted, he rarely revisited unless his uncle Reagan came for Christmas--Keaton grew up being fed Celtic/Gaelic folklore, superstition, and Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) doctrine by his mother, which is where his Calvinistic beliefs and comments about brownies and elves come from. His father, on the other hand, was Church of England (Episcopalian), quiet, stern, hardworking, and very English. He had a great homelife, for the most part. He was as restless a child as any, of course, longing for great adventures outside of the cobbler's shop and neighboring wheat fields, and his parents did good to feed his imagination, allowing him to read whenever he could. (So, yes, he can read Latin like a priest, only sparse amount of Greek, and can speak Scottish Gaelic like a master.) His heart's desire, as a child and young man, was to travel the world, write plays and poetry, then settle down eventually with a well-funded education and a position as a professor at a university. Of course, marriage and several children would follow soon after, but he left those particular concerns up to God.
Because, yes, he believed in Him. He was, to put it frankly, a Christian. A Bible-thumping one at the time.
Then tragedy struck. Not once, not twice, but three times.
Although he didn't lose his salvation--or his conviction--he did lose his faith. This aspect of his character has been a struggle for me, balancing the boy who believed in God with the man who refused to. For a time, I had no idea how to manage him and his spiritual issues. Then I stumbled upon Matthew 14 and the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. I had my balance...and my storm.
So, even as a child--particularly after the death of his sister when he was fifteen--he had his moments of darkness and his moments of light. The moments in which he dreamed and kind of almost smiled (he never really smiles) and playacted, and the moments in which he sat in a corner and sulked. He and I are discovering that his penchant for sulking derives from innate cowardice. Nowadays, one might call a person like Keaton, in one moment carefree and a laughing and in the next frowning and cold, bipolar, but it is simply the devil and the demons he wrestles with.
Apart from this, his basic personality is, well, basic. He's quite easily the veritable opposite of Elliot, and in some ways like Rina. Where Elliot is reckless and thoughtless, Keaton is cautious and observant. And where Rina is intelligent and keen, Keaton is as well--but in her moments of indecisiveness and discouragement, Keaton is steady and reliable. It also helps, in his case, to have a set moral guideline and criteria--don't kill anyone and don't get killed.
I think his most definable trait, the one which never changes, is, ironically, his loyalty and constancy. So, yes, he refuses to have faith in God because he supposedly believes that He will let him down (or more from fear that the more he pours into a relationship, with anyone or thing, that more liable will he be to lose that person/relationship, just as he had with his entire family)...but because of that, he chooses to be the sort of person Rina can rely on, even after he let his sister and his parents down. All he wants, really, is to get over the past, as Rina once instructed him to, and make something better of the future, become a better person for someone else, someone who hadn't seen his faults before.
Someone not like Margaret Sharow, the girl he left behind in Cambridgeshire, his little sister's best friend...the girl who saw every mistake he made and loved him all the more for it.
Which is why I've placed him in the most precarious of situations, the one which totally destroys the wall of nonchalance and apathy that he'd built around his heart, the one that brings out the contradiction in his person. I suppose that's what I've done with all my characters.
Rina, who was supposedly tough and fearless, ended up crying and second-guessing herself and succumbing to the advances of a certain rakish merchant ship captain.
Xavier, who was supposed to be Godly and steadfast, spent most of the book doing stupid stuff, acting on impulse, and apologizing for things he'd not even planned to do--like flirting with and making advances to a certain pirate ship captain.
Crimson, who was supposed to be an impulsive but considerate wannabe pirate captain (seriously, but it never worked out), ended up being a combination of a cold jerk and a really sweet, demure girl with no plans for the future.
Elliot, who was supposed to be jovial and joking, was instead dark and distant.
So far, Julius and Scarlette are the only two characters who actually have stuck to their set personalities. Yes, we are all so happy about that. (Cue the crickets' chirping.) Everyone just adores Jules and Scar. I mean, like, crazy in love with them two. (Don't worry, they get better. It takes them a long time, but they get there. Eventually. I hope.)
I have to say, though my most favorite moment with Elliot was when I was able to show his tenderhearted, caring side, my favorite moments (so far) with Keaton are his angry ones. That man and anger make a sizzling combination. Like striking a match across shale, stone cold and lifeless one second...bursting into flames the next. Especially when Miss Margaret Amelia Sharow happens to be the match. (I'm definitely going to use that analogy now. Hmm.)
I haven't yet made it to my most sizzling moment of anger, but here is a snippet of one that I did enjoy writing immensely. (Cue warning shout!)
"A flush of red swathed her neck and she abandoned her casual stance for a more defensive one, hands propped on her hips, feet apart as though to brace for impact. 'I did not choose my fate and well you should know it!'
I stalked toward her, dropping my voice to a harsh whisper at the piercing sound of her outraged shriek. 'There is always a choice.'
She blinked rapidly, as though an eyelash had been caught in her eye or she had been caught off guard. 'Well, p-perhaps one seen only in hindsight, but—'
Perhaps? Hindsight? Was the girl an idiot?
I gave up. Left composure and propriety and common courtesy to the wind. Gripped her by the shoulders and jerked her so hard her head flew back and her eyes flew wide and her jaw flew open. 'You’re a blighted trollop, Margaret! Don’t tell me…'
Tears began to fall, first a trickle, then a cascade, leaving stains upon her cheeks and chin. Her mouth trembled with the effort of suppressing sobs, and my arms ached to hold her.
Because she needed to know I cared.
Because, if she didn’t, she might forget anyone did at all.
Because I did care."
Well, I don't know about y'all, but I sure am I glad to know Keaton Clarke. Even if he annoys me to no end with his incessant blabber and charming smiles and innocent flirtations. (Cue guffaws and a distant comedic drum roll.)
As I mentioned with Elliot, I put a lot of myself into my characters, and when I think of Keaton, there are a lot of things that we have in common--a love for words, a thirst for knowledge, an undying loyalty to family and those we love, an inability to verbally express positive emotion, a penchant for overthinking and over-analyzing situations--but I think there's only one thing that really sticks out.
We're always trying. Granted, the both of us fail most of the time, but like Keaton tries to be the kind of man he wants to be (that kind of man only God can make him into), the friend Rina can trust and depend on, and the person that certain people need him to be at certain periods of time, I try to be the kind of daughter and sister and Christian and writer that I know God wants me to be. And, sometimes, that's so difficult and so consuming that it's easier to make ourselves believe that we don't care, that we can never be that "perfect" person for someone else, that what we do or think or say or feel doesn't really matter. Sometimes it's easier to believe a lie than accept the truth, but that, as Keaton would say, doesn't change anything.
Thank you so much for joining me for my Meet the Character. I'm hoping the infamous Margaret Sharow will be next, but I can't promise you anything! 😉 Readers out there (I hope you're listening), which character would you like me to feature next? I'll be happy to introduce you to a main character from a previous book, a secondary character, or even my beloved Kit and Chloe, if you'd like!
Stay tuned, because soon I'll be sharing more and more about Bound and Determined, and (yes, there's an AND) what's next on the docket! (It's a surprise, a mystery of sorts!)
Excerpts from Prisoner at Heart: Copyright © 2019 Grace Ann Johnson
Excerpts from Bound and Determined: Copyright © 2020-2021 Grace Ann Johnson
All rights reserved.