It’s funny how a character can reach out and grab you. Sometimes the character you end up liking the most isn’t even the main one, not that protagonist into whom you have sunk so much time and effort. You have mapped out their story, their journey, their lessons and then suddenly...a different character pops up and steals your heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like Ella. She is like me in a lot of ways and unlike me in a lot of other ways. I admire her determination and her drive, I cry over her heartbreak and her struggles, and I roll my eyes at her stubborn streak that is oh so familiar!
But Matthew is my favorite. And he wasn’t even supposed to be in the book.
Matthew Searle is a U.S. marine, stationed on Guadalcanal in 1942. It had been a year since Pearl Harbor and he joined the marines because he was itching for a fight. The Japanese had scored a big victory with the Pearl Harbor attack, but Matthew and his buddies were going to make sure payback was swift and brutal.
But WWII was supposed to be the Civil War in An Unexpected Angel and I had selected Antietam, a battle fought in September 1862 for the scene. Matthew wasn’t named Matthew then, he was Elias and he was much older and much more grizzled than Matthew.
When it became obvious the scene wasn’t working, I knew I needed to move the battle. A Civil War soldier is very different from a WWII marine, so Elias had to go and Matthew took his place. Right from the start I really liked him, but it wasn’t until I found this picture from the Library of Congress that he really started to take shape. The photo is of a real WWII soldier. He is very young, absolutely filthy, and completely exhausted. More than anything, he wants to go home. But there is an unmistakable look of determination and raw courage in his eyes. I don’t know the real soldier’s name, but to me, he is Matthew.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the battle of Guadalcanal. Marines like Matthew were on the island 70 years ago today and many of them spent Christmas there. Matthew’s scene in An Unexpected Angel is my small way to remember them and say thank you.
You can learn more about Janet by clicking here to visit her website and here to purchase her book, An Unexpected Angel.