Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Secondary Characters with Colleen Donnelly

I usually feature stories about secondary characters on Mondays, but I'm changing it up a little this week. Colleen Donnelly joins me for a fascinating look at one of her secondary characters. Please join me in welcoming Colleen Donnelly!

Secondary Characters – The Substance of Life

This is my tribute to secondary characters who for one fleeting moment became heroes in my life: To Tommy Duncan, a junior high classmate who shocked me with how soft boys’ lips were when he kissed me on the cheek. To Corky the Rat Terrier, a joyful little white streak in my yard who came and went far too quickly. To the elderly businessman who in passing at a meeting warned the younger single me, “Never settle, always select.”

As an author, if I write what I know, my favorite fictional secondary character is an amalgamation of heroes I at some point encountered and admired deeply. Magdalena Paine is that character – a heroine in her moment, a background my story couldn’t have been told without.

Magdalena lets us know who she is in her opening in “Asked For” by saying, “My name is Magdalena. When I was growing up I was Magdalena Paine, but now I’m Magdalena something different. I’ve been several something differents since I was a girl, but none of them matter. What matters is the time I was Magdalena Paine…”

In those few lines I see a girl who grew up rejected, suffered at least one broken heart, and used those broken hearts to overcome.

Magdalena also introduces her mother, Lana Paine, in her opening – “Mama had six children after she had me, five of them one right after the other, mostly because Pop couldn’t leave her alone. It wasn’t that he was in love with her; he just loved hard the same way he worked hard. …Mama never complained, no matter what Pop did, and my brothers and sisters didn’t either. They were too afraid.”

Magdalena is the woman every family needs. Instead of accepting her father’s rejection, she owns who she is – turning herself into the mirror he refuses to look in. She wears makeup and smokes in the face of his claims that only hags and whores behave in such ways. Magdalena wasn’t just rebellious, she suffered her father’s heat to deflect it from her mother, her siblings, and most of all from James…That Boy…the one their father said wasn’t his.

If you haven’t been, then you’ve known, a girl who searched for acceptance in “several something differents” – a string of various last names, a series of relationships that came and went. And she did it to live instead of die, and she did it so her family would live also.

Magdalena is hard to read, and rejection is hard to live, but Magdalena did it so very, very well.

Blurb for Asked For:

Cletus asked for Lana when she was barely more than a child. He told her grandmother wanted a wife, not a bride, someone to keep his house the way he wanted it and to give him sons. He got more daughters than sons, and he also got James, “That boy,” the one Cletus claimed wasn’t his.

Jim Dillon wanted Lana — he always had. He just hadn’t expected her to be taken away and married to someone else so soon. Glen Morgan recognized the beauty underlying Lana’s worn features and he stepped in where Cletus hadn’t, offering help to her and her children.

Lana grew up under Cletus’ demands, fulfilling what was expected of her — until his accusations that she’d done the unexpected and been unfaithful. Lana no longer looked at what might have been or what could be,. She discovered what was most important, and she found it inside of herself.


She wore her auburn hair longer now because Cletus liked it that way, but it was pulled back out of Magdalena’s and Betsy’s reaches. And no makeup. She’d come plain, the way she always was, plain and tired.

“I probably am a sight.” Lana felt her face flush, but tried to ignore it. She wasn’t here to be told how good she looked. She was here to see Grandma, see herself and her new life against her old one and the person who’d told her how this new one was supposed to be lived.

“You look just fine, actually.” A tall shadow filled the shed’s doorway behind Grandma. “If anything, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”


Jim Dillon stepped from the shed’s dark interior. He’d changed. She was shocked at what he’d become. He’d grown in three years, muscles where scrawny arms used to be, tanned skin and chiseled features where softness used to be. There was still the boy in his eyes, though, the boy who’d helped her with chores before she left to get married. The boy Grandma had said really wasn’t there to help Lana but was there because he needed the pay. A bucket half full of milk dangled from one of Jim’s hands. Grandma was right again. He was here not because Lana was but because he needed the pay.

Jim didn’t stare at her daughters, or the bulge of her stomach, or the worn dress that covered it. He just looked at her face, his eyes scanning every feature as if relearning, even admiring, who she’d become.

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Author Bio:

Colleen L. Donnelly resides in the Midwestern United States. Born and raised in this central part of the country, she eventually broadened her horizons by exploring and experiencing other areas and cultures until she returned to her home ground to settle for good. Colleen always knew, or was told, she could/should write, but there was never enough time until education, family, and career were well established. Now she loves creating character driven tales, telling her stories with a literary style that flows at a gentle and smooth pace. Besides writing, Colleen enjoys the outdoors, theater, treasure hunting through antique malls and flea markets, and rubbing shoulders with other creative people. Colleen always has her eyes and ears open for that one statement or unexpected incident that sprouts like a tiny seed into her next new novel.

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