Shaping characters by their environment by Phillipa Nefri Clark

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I’m fascinated by how people develop. What part is environment, what part genetics? If two children have a similar traumatic event, how might it shape their futures?

In Jasmine Sea, and its prequel, The Stationmaster’s Cottage, my heroine Christie, and hero, Martin, were both orphaned very young. Both were raised by a grandparent. Both were only children. And they share a common fear of being loved and left.

What I found interesting as their relationship began and then developed, was how each internalized these factors and the impact they made on everyday lives, decisions, and outlook.

There are traits both have: self-sufficiency, courage, kindness, strong sense of right and wrong, drive to succeed. How they manifest these traits is often opposite the other.

Christie’s ability to work with a team shows her flexibility and willingness to fit in. Martin works alone. Phone off, no interruptions.

From the beginning, Christie enjoyed a rapid rise to the top of her profession as an international film makeup artist and takes the accompanying luxuries in her stride. Martin disdains fame and the trappings of wealth. 

Christie makes friends and trusts people almost on sight. Martin rarely lets anyone in… but once he does, he’ll move heaven and earth for them.

Although successful. Christie accepts less in relationships and from herself, outside of work. Alpha male Martin knows his self-worth and believes in himself without being cocky.

Why so different? What does my theory on environment have to do with any of this? After all, everyone’s personality is different. But they share one life experience with profound and long lasting effects; the loss of their parents. They needed very different upbringing.

I knew Christie had to have a big emotional arc and become strong. Sure, she’s strong already in some ways, but her lack of confidence has her in a bad relationship before Martin comes along. She went from a confident, happy child to a quiet and pleasing adult who wants to keep the peace. To help that happen I created a bitter grandmother to raise her. A woman who lost everything through her own poor decisions and would rather not have this child in her life.

Bit by bit, Dorothy wore down Christie’s natural exuberance, instilling fear in the child about being herself, and an unnatural terror of the ocean. Although Christie left the life behind as soon as possible, the residual effects stayed with her.

On the other hand, Martin’s own arc was about overcoming a deep suspicion of love and distrust of people he judged as not genuine. He was raised by his grandfather, Thomas, a man desperately hurt as a young man by the woman he loved more than life. Whilst Thomas is a loving and supportive man, his life experience rubs off on Martin.

From their first meeting, attraction and opposing motives launch them into an emotional journey. This is where their similarities and differences propel them forward, backwards and everywhere in between.

For one character, recognition of their mutual inner-child pain comes quickly. For the other, only the risk of losing everything brings clarity.

So it is nature or nurture? Both, I believe. What do you think?


Jasmine Sea: A River’s End Love Story. Book Two

Sometimes facing the past is the only way forward.

Starting over never felt better. Christie Ryan adores the little cottage she’s renovating, the seaside town that embraced her, and Martin Blake, the man she longs to marry. Ex-fiancé Derek Hobbs is finally out of the picture, and there are no more secrets in her life or mysteries to solve.

Will the arrival of a mysterious woman who commissions a portrait from Martin under a cloud of secrecy break her after all? Unrest and suspicion remind Christie that happiness can be fleeting, and when the peaceful town is shattered by crime, her past is again thrust into the limelight.

With one chance and only minutes to save those she loves, Christie comes face to face with her greatest fear—and there is no way around it.

Jasmine Sea follows on from The Stationmaster’s Cottage, set shortly after its stunning conclusion.

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Philipa Clark

Phillipa Nefri Clark grew up around lonely Australian beaches with wild seas and misty cliffs. From a young age she wrote stories and dreamed of being a writer. There were many detours along the way as she trod paths as diverse as a travelling sales rep to singing and acting. Fascinated by film, Phillipa wrote five feature length screenplays, one which was optioned. Now living in regional Victoria on a small acreage close to a mountain range, she markets the family business a few days a week and writes the rest of the time. With nonfiction credits for specialist canine publications, she finally returned to stories with the release of The Stationmaster’s Cottage, a dual timeline romance, in February 2017. Her great loves, apart from writing, are her family of two young adult sons and her husband, their Labrador, music,  fine wine, and friends.

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