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Guest Post: It All Starts With The Who

Award-winning author, Marilee Haynes, and I “e-met” online through some great Catholic Facebook groups. She and I also have the same ‘writing-mama’ AKA our amazing publishing company, Pauline Books and Media and have been ‘blog touring’ together since the beginning of September.

I would like to welcome Marilee as a guest blogger this week and encourage you all to check out her books!

Below, Marilee talks about what her book characters mean to her and how her Genius character Gabe Carpenter was ‘born.’

Any good story answers the questions who, what, when, where, why and how. All are important. All must be answered and answered well to produce a story that readers will enjoy. It’s true that you can’t have a who without a what and you can’t have a when without a where. But it’s also true that every story has to start somewhere. For me, it always starts with the who.

Character. Characters are what draw me to books. And characters with whom I connect are what turns books I like into books I love. As a kid, there were people (and for me they were and still are as real as any flesh-and-blood person) like Ramona Quimby and Anne Shirley. Jo March and Nancy Drew. Sometimes they weren’t even human, but I didn’t love them any less. Like Wilbur. And Charlotte.

So, it’s no surprise that when I write, character comes first. Every time. Most times characters seem to sort of land in my head, nearly fully-formed and ready to tell their stories. I know what they look like and how they sound. I know if they are quiet or loud, if their laugh is more of a giggle or a snort. I know what kind of friend they are and who they trust with their secrets. And those secrets. I know those, too. The things that scare them the most. The thing they wish for more than anything, but are afraid to say out loud for fear it won’t come true.

The main character in my “Genius” books came to me just that way. The initial spark came from a goofy conversation with a writer friend about a suspicious smell coming from her laptop. I suggested the smell may have been the smell of genius. And from that simple phrase, Gabe Carpenter was born. A seventh-grade boy who was both absolutely ordinary and completely extraordinary at the same time. A certified genius who couldn’t open his own locker. A boy well-versed on the complexities of meteorology and engineering who couldn’t talk to girls. Ever. A boy who could explain in detail the physics behind shooting a basketball yet who couldn’t make a basket himself.

By the end of that evening, Gabe was born. I hope readers come to know and love Gabe the way I do. And the way I loved Ramona and all the rest. I hope Gabe becomes a friend.

About the Author

A full-time stay-at-home mom to three children, award-winning author Marilee Haynes writes middle-grade fiction in stolen quiet moments (in other words, when everyone else is asleep). Marilee’s middle grade novel a.k.a. Genius was the recipient of the 2014 Catholic Arts and Letters Award (CALA) for children’s fiction and the 2nd place award for teen fiction from the Catholic Press Association. It was also awarded the Seal of Approval by the Catholic Writers’ Guild. Her second book, Genius Under Construction, is its sequel. Both books are published by and available from Pauline Books & Media

Find out more about Marilee and her books at

Follow her on twitter at @mgwritermhaynes

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