Interview with Authors Susan Rogers & John Roosen: Making Characters That Come Alive

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we talked to authors Susan Rogers and John Roosen, about their writing, particularly their creation process behind the authentic characters. (Read the review for Cobra Pose here.)

After writing Surviving Paradise about their life in the South Pacific, John and Susan hatched their Yoga Mat Mysteries series. Dead Man’s Pose is first in the line-up, with Cobra Pose as the second book. Next will be Tree Pose – coming soon!

What do a woman, who used to train military personnel how to shoot straight, and a man, skilled at eradicating all sorts of hazardous materials safely, have in common? Both were designated law enforcement officers and they have now written two ‘knock ’em dead’ books … together!

John Roosen started his career as a biologist, served as a commissioned naval officer, a designated law enforcement officer and environmental emergency specialist in the United States He has lived and worked in Australasia, Antarctica, the Americas and the Middle East. At a moment’s notice, he would respond to chemical and refinery plant explosions, deal with rocket fuel plant meltdowns and dismantle illegal drug labs. With Susan, John delivered international security and safety training against terrorism to ports in the Pacific. As a change-up, John switched careers to chasing pirates and duelling with a con artist extraordinaire on a remote South Pacific island. In between, he organised jungle expeditions and deep-sea scuba diving. However, John’s experience extends beyond responding to cataclysmic disasters and includes mastering the intricacies of making soufflé omelettes without burning the edges.

Susan Rogers already knew she was a writer at age six, but her life took a major detour when she became a commissioned naval officer. As a designated law enforcement officer, she was boarding ships at sea and conducting structural and safety inspections. In addition, she developed civil defence programs for civilian populations. With John, Susan orchestrated sting operations. Susan also ran extensive weapons training programs and managed emergency responses for natural and man-made disasters. Susan worked in Australasia, the Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East. While posted in Abu Dhabi, she ran health and safety operations for multi-billion-dollar projects along the Persian Gulf. In her spare time, she directed the restoration of a Presidential yacht. In between, she has written several books and revamped a South Pacific maritime service. Susan continues to write: whether braced against the hull of a sailing vessel on a hard tack, during a crossing of the Middle East’s empty quarter in a Mini or bouncing around in a troop carrier in Australia’s outback.

After writing Surviving Paradise about their life in the South Pacific, John and Susan hatched their Yoga Mat Mysteries series. Dead Man’s Pose is first in the line-up, with Cobra Pose as the second book. Next will be Tree Pose – coming soon!

As two authors who work together on book-writing, people often ask us if our characters are based on real people. “Absolutely!” is our reply.

In Dead Man’s Pose, for example, there is a man who lives on the street, but also writes and sells magazines that support a variety of homeless needs.

‘Alfred is one of those invisible people on Sydney’s streets who are out there every day. Only a few people notice or see them as they walk by, or rush to important jobs, plugged into ear buds, ignoring most of what is around them. But Alfred is an interesting man. He has quite a following.’

Ric continued, ‘A lot of the street people aren’t just random individuals moving around the city. They share some camaraderie and information at the grassroots level, so to speak. They know the best grass plots to sleep on and places to keep warm and dry when it’s cold and wet. They’ve staked out where there’s water, and dumpsters where they might get food. They’re always around and they notice what’s happening. They have to. It’s part of how they survive. If anything is out of the ordinary or is happening around town, Alfred is one of the people I like to chat with. Besides, he’s somewhat of a literary virtuoso who contributes to the magazine he sells.’

‘You mean he writes for Sydney on the Street?’ Elaina asked.

‘Yes, he does and there’s the master at work ahead of us, performing in top demonstration mode.’

Alfred was across from Central Station, on the corner of Elizabeth Street next to a grocery outlet, conversing with passers-by. He had a non-stop monologue. ‘G’day, folks. Have a good day now. You there, don’t get caught in any lift doors. Lovely hat, Mrs Peacock.’ The banter rolled off his tongue while he spun one of the glossy magazines horizontally in the air on his finger.

Alfred was a superstar at juggling magazines on the top of his index finger while he moved up and down the street. He occasionally caught the magazine behind his back.

‘Hey, Alfred, howzit?’ Ric said, holding out his right hand.

Alfred responded in kind, alternating the rotating magazine to his left hand and sticking out his right to shake Ric’s. The crowd heading to the station clapped. Alfred stopped to sell two of the magazines from his stash on the corner.

Though not named Alfred, you would likely see an ‘Alfred’ on the streets of Sydney. Of course, in Dead Man’s Pose, he has a few additional roles, but he starts from a combination of the several people we would often see in and around the streets of Sydney, Australia.

Of course, not ever character is based on someone we have seen or known. Some characters become a combination of one or more people. Sometimes we have to blend the people we have observed so they can conduct specific activities during the book’s plotline.

For example, in Cobra Pose, which is book 2 in our Yoga Mat Mystery series, Ric and Elaina visit Broken Hill, Australia. They run into two gold prospectors.

They hurriedly turned left on Argent Street. Outside the door, they crashed into two people walking on the footpath. They were dressed alike in dirt-covered outback clothing. There was a puff of dust upon impact.

‘Ahhh, oohhh, so sorry,’ the woman said and then caught sight of who she’d bumped into. ‘Elaina. Elaina Williams. You remember me and Neil here. I’m Cherry.’

‘Oh, Cherry and Neil Sanders from Townsville. What are you doing here?’

‘We were going to meet your father and do some camping and prospecting, but he didn’t show up. We texted you.’

‘Yes, I got your text late yesterday. My father was coming here?’

‘Yes, but we got a text about four or five days ago from your father, and we were already here. Neil, you have the phone, don’t you?’

‘G’day, Elaina,’ Neil said. He had hovered behind Cherry, holding a small bag in his hand. He pulled out a dusty phone from his front pocket. ‘Ahhh, here’s what the text said: ‘Sorry Cherry and Neil. Can’t make the foursome we planned for camping. Something’s come up. I’ll miss the gold panning in the White River that we planned. Hope to see you again soon. Edward.’

Cherry and Neil also have their roots in ‘real life people’. And they are very good at gold prospecting including in and around Broken Hill. But their role in Cobra Pose is to help progress the storyline, which they do nicely in the above excerpt.

Writers have the delicious opportunity to use a smorgasbord of options at their fingertips. Just like any artist they can dabble in one method and then switch to another if that isn’t working.

Knowing the right balance can be a method of trial and error where you work at something over and over again until it reads and sounds right. Sometimes the character comes to life with little or no effort, like they are ready to jump out from the computer keys onto the page. Those are the magic moments every writer loves.

We hope people enjoy the many characters we have created in both Dead Man’s Pose and Cobra Pose. Our books are the combination of a wide variety of quirky characters and a well-crafted plot.

If you ask us if we ever talk to our characters, we would answer:


Links to Dead Man’s Pose and Cobra Pose.

Dead Man’s Pose

Cobra Page


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