Take Two Characters. Kitty Wilson Chooses Two Of Her Favourite Fictional People.

Posted on 7th June, 2019

I am delighted to welcome my fellow Sister Scribe, Kitty Wilson, to my blog. After years living in Cornwall, Kitty now lives in Bristol. She writes the popular Cornish Village School series, which is published by Canelo.


Take two characters…


When Susanna asked me to write about two characters, one from a book I had written and one written by someone else that I found memorable, I thought knew exactly who I would write about. I have surprised myself.


Mine was easy, in the first book in The Cornish Village School series, Breaking the Rules, I have a character called Marion Marksharp who is the head of the PTA and I love her. Like a velociraptor dressed in Cath Kidston, she stalks the school and is terrifying - quelling rebellion with an eyebrow and being the subject of fear and loathing from all of the parents and most of the staff. She is the archetypal competitive playground mum and as both an ex-teacher and parent to two children, I have memories of many real-world incarnations of Marion who both scared the bejesus out of me (whilst bragging about what book-band their child was on and doling out looks of faux-sympathy) but whom I learnt, over time, to admire for their tenacity and determination.


Marion began as a side character, a small cast member in the school community but soon developed into a force of her own. I enjoyed writing her and she made me laugh so much that she soon took on a major role, shaping the story far more than was ever intended, her character becoming more complex the more I wrote.


What I didn’t expect was readers to enjoy her as much as I did. As I was obsessively reading reviews after publication of the first book, I was surprised to see that Marion was by far the favourite character. This made me so happy and, as I was in the midst of book two, meant that I felt encouraged to feature her heavily, once again giving her a role that shaped the story. As the series has progressed, I have found that I’m so fond of her now that the series arc is based upon her and the final book (spoiler warning!) will tie up all the threads from the first four books and be about Marion’s very own Happy Ever After.


Never when I wrote the first book in the series did I imagine that this side character would develop into a steady thread and take over the whole series in the way that she has.


When it came to choosing the second character for Susanna’s blog I assumed that because I read so widely as an adolescent, my favourite character would have to come from that time of my life. I have considered Katharine Swynford, Dona St Columb, Sara Dane and Jane Eyre to name just a few but I have surprised myself and landed upon a character that I re-read about very recently. This is partly because the characters that I grew up adoring I haven’t read for many years and I have little faith in the accuracy of my memories but also because of the power of Madeleine Miller’s Circe - her characterisation of this enchantress made me question and revisit my own attitudes and limitations.


I’m a terrible history geek, I adore the Homeric Epics and think that The Odyssey has some of the most memorable mythical characters ever devised. There was Cyclops, who many of us may remember from primary school, the Lotus-eaters, the Sirens - a great list that has continued to shape storytelling to this day. Amongst this number was Circe, whose tale has been re-imagined and re-told by Miller and was published last year.


When I studied The Odyssey many moons ago, I recalled Circe as being an enchantress, a witch who turned Odysseus’ men into pigs and then returned them to their form as sailors but kept them trapped on her island for a year. Despite the fact that she offered advice on how to avoid some of the dangers Odysseus faced on his way home, fed a shipload of sailors for a year and allowed them to stay for a prolonged period, I wrote her off as a villain, a two-dimensional character who Odysseus had to use his cunning to defeat, to allow him to get on with his journey. Despite being aware she was an enchantress, l pictured her as an older woman with warts and ratty hair - the archetypal witch conjured up in popular culture for centuries. So much for my feminist credentials.


The re-telling of this character by Miller drew her as a daughter and a sister, ridiculed and reviled and placed on the edges of society, only to be cast out entirely when she rebelled against the dictates and hierarchy of the ancient Gods.


As she became older, she became a lover, a mother and fully embraced her status of witch and the powers it gave her. I saw her anew, as a supporter of Odysseus, a woman who nurtured and encouraged those she loved, sacrificing her own desires to aid those that she cared for. She was a hero of the highest order and, with Miller’s re-telling, I have learnt to adore her. I could write pages and pages in praise of this Circe – I won’t – but it is an interesting lesson in how a character and a story that has existed for millennia can be reinvigorated and reborn in the hands of a truly skilled storyteller.


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Kitty's links:

Her Twitter page  


Her Amazon page 


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Comments (11)

Thanks for dropping by, Jen. I too enjoyed Kitty's explanation of how Marion took over her series, not least because of recognising her as a very real person. I think we have all met a Marion or two, haven't we!
This post has given me more books for my TBR list. And I indeed chuckled because I too have known many women like Marion!

Madeline Millers 'Circe' is new to me so I appreciate the introduction.

Thanks to Kitty for an interesting 'take' on 'take two characters' and to Susanna as well for this interesting series.
Tara, thank you so much for your comment. I am, naturally, biased but I adore Marion. Although I have to admit I much prefer her on the page than in real life. She's so utterly outrageous - the things she says and the way she sees people as mere instruments to serve her current agenda - means I have the freedom to write things that no normal person would get away with. She does make me giggle.
Lally, thank you so much for your comment. The thought of reading The Odyssey in Latin is making me shiver. I learnt both Latin and Greek for my degree but to read the whole thing! My goodness! I loved Miller's retelling so much, I think you'll love it too. It was fascinating how she changed my perception utterly and made me question the prism through which I had initially studied it.
Thank you so much. I loved the way this version of Circe challenged all my preconceptions. And as for Marion, I have met so many in my time. I admire them for being such sheer forces but oh my goodness, they terrify me! I have had a fair few battles with them in the classroom!
Tara, lovely to hear from you. I'm glad you are enjoying this series. There have been some fascinating insights and unexpected moments (not least Lally's inclusion of Winnie The Pooh!). Marion is indeed a brilliant character and makes her mark on the series right from her first appearance.
Lally, nice to see you here. I agree with you about certain characters having their own "life force." Marion is a wonderful example of this. It is easy to see why she is such an important character in Kitty's series.
Jan, thanks for your comments. I know what you mean about recognising Marion from real life. As a former teacher, I know just what you mean. It's interesting, too, how she starts out as a minor character, but then grows into so much more.
I love this series. Another fab post. So interesting to read. Marion sounds like a brilliant character. I’m not familiar with Circe but will add it to my list.
Fascinating choice, I love the idea that initially conceived as a minor character Marion has managed to become such a popular superstar with her readers! Proof indeed that characters have their own life force if you just allow them space to blossom.

As for Circe, I always thought of her as an enchantress and a wrinkled old crone, (not helped by being forced to read the original in Latin!) but from reading your comments she sounds positively delightful and I have put Madeline Miller's 'Circe' on my 'must read' list.... thanks so much for introducing me! And thanks so much for this lovely blog, much appreciated.
A great post, Kitty and Susanna. As I was reading about Marion, so many memories sprang to mind, both from being a mum waiting at the school gate and then as a teacher! I like the way she started off as a minor character and now, as a force to be reckoned with, the series is based around her. I just loved the way you've described her as 'a velociraptor dressed in Cath Kidston' and 'quelling rebellion with an eyebrow' - brilliant. The fact that your second character came from a re-telling and portrayed Circe in a different light for you made very interesting reading.