She’s not the character I started with. It’s not even the story I started with. I published my first book at 35 but started writing the week of my 34th birthday. It was what you might call a ‘buddy cop’ novel. The idea was for a former FBI agent, out of the game since his wife’s passing, to assemble a team of eclectic specialists to hunt down white collar thieves. Not very original, I know. I’m pretty sure I mashed several of my favorite tv shows and books together into one idea. I still think about it though. I like the idea of weird, random people with unusual skills and even more unusual personalities working together to achieve a common goal. I may pick it back up one day.
In that story, Quincy was a thief. She was a thief, but she wasn’t a bad guy. She had her reasons, and she and the FBI agent had a history. She was a criminal, but she wasn’t beyond help, and he gives her a second chance when he recruits her to their team. But that’s not important. Maybe someday, if I ever find the time, but not now.
What is important is that Quincy always had layers, no matter the iteration. We’re so often pigeonholed by how others see us - and how we see ourselves. The Quincy in my first story was a criminal, but she was kind. She didn’t steal because she could, or because she loved the rush, or because she enjoyed it. She had her reasons, but she never saw herself as a petty thief, even when everyone else did. The Quincy of Shattered Highways, by that same token, is a nobody. She doesn’t have a name, or a birthday, or a family. She doesn’t know where she came from or where she was going when her life veered suddenly off-course. She changes identities and personalities purposefully when she has control and unconsciously when she doesn’t.
Both women struggle to put a name to who and what they are, and who and what they should be. But the point of their struggle, and ours, is that we’re never just one thing. Could the first Quincy be a woman of integrity, with a moral compass that points towards empathy and compassion, and a thief at the same time? Can the second Quincy be an effervescent blonde waitress named Gracie Elliot, a quiet, shy bartender named Kara Scott, and a sarcastic, sassy librarian named Quincy O’Connell? I think so. Those are the characters with depth. The characters you find yourself relating to and caring about. You want to see them develop and mature and find the answer to the question, because you still have hope that you’ll find the answer too, one day.
The Quincy of both books is tough. The Quincy of the Shattered Highways series is going to have to break a little more if she’s going to hope for a better outcome than repeating the cycle she’s stuck in over and over until either her body wears out or the voice in her head wins. But I think I’m not the only one out there who’s felt that way before, and who will feel that way again. My outlet, my way of expressing who I am, is to write characters like Quincy, who can symbolically live out some of the confusion I hear in my own head. I sincerely hope you have an outlet of your own, one that gives you the freedom and peace to live your life content in the knowledge that you will never be just one thing.