Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just for fun--casting my novel

I don't actually expect anyone to make a movie of The Sergeant's Lady, but hey, it's fun to dream! Also, I'm not a naturally visual thinker--I "hear" my stories more than I "see" them--so sometimes I find coming up with an actor or a period portrait helps me work in those concrete visual details that help a story come alive.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share some of the images I kept going back to when working on TSL. I'll start with the most important characters, the hero and heroine.

My hero, Will Atkins, was easy to cast. He's a 27-year-old sergeant in the 95th Rifles, an elite infantry regiment in the British army during the Napoleonic Wars. (And, yes, one that will already be familiar to fans of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels or the TV movies based on them and starring Sean Bean.) He's a tough, experienced soldier, blessed with ample common sense, but he also has a chivalrous streak and a stubborn independence that nearly a dozen years in the army hasn't entirely eradicated. I wanted him to have a solid, reliable handsomeness, and I immediately thought of Firefly-era Nathan Fillion.

Will's hair is lighter and more of a red-brown, and his eyes are whisky-brown rather than blue like Fillion's, but if you take Nathan Fillion and imagine him dressed in Rifle green like this...'ve pretty much got my Will.

My heroine, Anna Arrington, was more of a challenge. She's young, just 22, but she's also a survivor, coming out of two long years in an abusive marriage. She comes from a long line of Scottish nobility (her maiden name was Gordon), so I wanted her to look both Celtic and aristocratic. I knew she'd have dark curls and green eyes, and pale, pale skin with faintly rosy cheeks.

I first wrote TSL back in 2005, when The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came out. When I saw it in the theater, I spent half the movie trying to figure out why the actress playing Susan (Anna Popplewell) seemed so familiar. Toward the end I finally realized why: she looked a bit like my Anna, but as a 16- or 17-year-old.

Then, years later, while working on another manuscript, I found another image that made me think, "Wait, that's Anna."

That's Hyacinthe Wellesley, a niece of the Duke of Wellington, painted in 1822. She's not as conventionally pretty as Popplewell, but the curly hair, arched eyebrows, aquiline nose, and overall posture and bearing are just right for my character.

So, that's my hero and heroine! Future posts will feature Anna's evil first husband, her brother and sister-in-law, Will's best friends, and more.


  1. Perfect casting! Funny- I had Nathan Filllion in mind for Will too. Good to get a visual for Anna.

  2. It's funny how some actors lend themselves to period pieces and others don't. I can't picture Nathan Fillion doing a British accent, but he'd look FINE in the clothes, while John Krasinski, whom I find equally attractive, is just so of this century that trying to picture him in Napoleonic-era uniform gives me the giggles.

    And I think Anna was tough to find a face for because she's prettier by 1810 standards than by 2010, so there aren't many actresses that look like her.