One of the ways I visualize my characters is to post pictures of people on a bulletin board that runs along the wall to the left of my computer. I found several pictures that fit my mental image of Abra. One is of an unnamed pre-teen girl with pale green eyes and wild red hair. Another is of a young and vulnerable Winona Ryder that reminds me of Natalie Wood, James Dean’s co-star in the classic “Rebel Without a Cause”. For Abra’s Hollywood years, I posted several pictures of Rita Hayworth, a 1940s film star famous for “Gilda”. Abra also shares personality traits with the late Marilyn Monroe. Though they don’t share the same fate, they were both broken-hearted young women who found it impossible to live a make-believe persona.
Another main character, Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, is a man’s man with a wholesome image. I imagined him ruggedly handsome, like James Garner. Not the young Maverick star, but the older, nothing-surprises-me star of “The Rockford Files”. Rick has been a fan of James Garner for years, ever since he met him on a golf course. The star was a down-to-earth gentleman who didn’t mind talking golf with a twelve year old boy.
Zeke’s son, Joshua, is the third main character and the true love interest. He suffers through the Korean War only to come home and suffer more when he realizes he’s in love with Abra and she’s about to make the biggest mistake of her life by running away with a bad boy in a fast car. Jeffrey Hunter who played Martin Pawley in the 1956 hit, “The Searchers” had the right look.
Dylan is the bad boy every good girl wants to tame and marry. I had pictures of James Dean from “Rebel Without a Cause” and “East of Eden”, both movies made in 1955. Sadly, the promising young star died when he had a head-on crash in his Porsche 550 Spyder on “the racer’s road” to Salinas, California.
I imagine Penny as a pretty blonde and popular Sandra Dee, the star of “Gidget” – 1959. I wanted so badly to see this movie when it came out, but my parents didn’t think it appropriate and felt it romanticized an innocent young girl hanging around with a bunch of worldly surfers. I had to wait years to see the movie on TV.
Other characters made the board: Mitzi Martin, an elderly lady with a wild side; Franklin Moss, the Hollywood agent who transforms Abra into Lena Scott, Lilith Stark, Dylan’s infamous mother who write a tell-all Hollywood gossip column and the Stewards, Abra’s adoptive parents who love her far more than she knows.