Mystery Mondays: Kathleen Duhamel on CREATING MEMORABLE HEROINES

Welcome to Mystery Mondays. Today we have author Kathleen Duhamel here to talk to use about creating memorable heroines. Kathleen and I connected when Kathleen joined the group of authors published by Imajin Books. I’ve since read all her books, and love them. You might too!

So over to Kathleen…


By Kathleen Duhamel

A few years ago, when I began writing what became my first novel, Deep Blue, I had no idea it would ever be published, much less met with positive reviews. To begin with, I worried that my characters were too old to be relatable. Until recently, conventional romance and women’s fiction seldom featured characters past their thirties. When Deep Blue begins, Claire Martin is a 58-year-old “barely not starving” artist and her love interest is 62-year-old musician, Robert Silver. Would readers be turned off by the idea of these two enjoying a healthy love/sex life?

Deep Blue is also not a conventional “romance” in the sense that not every problem in the relationship gets resolved before the last page. Life tends to get a lot more complicated when you’re attempting to balance the demands of children, grandchildren, health issues, career pressures, and aging parents, and I wanted to touch on these issues in the book. Surprisingly, the age issue I worried about turned out to be a bonus for some readers, who found the senior love story “refreshing.”

What began as one book has morphed into three, with Deep End, the third book in the trilogy, due out in fall/winter 2017. As in the first and second books, what drives the plot is Claire’s emotional journey. While love is certainly part of that journey, she also is forced to deal with several unresolved issues in her life as a new wife and unexpected stepmother.

Here are my tips on how to create a strong female character that readers will remember.

Give her a spine.

At 58, Claire is certainly older (and presumably wiser) than younger heroines, having been through a few failed relationships, an acrimonious divorce, and financial struggles. She’s also a cancer survivor, which makes her identifiable with millions of others. Although she hasn’t given up on love, she’s somewhat wary of it, especially when a famous and charming man enters the picture and wants to sweep her into his overblown lifestyle.

She insists on solving her own problems without having to be “rescued” by her man.

However, she’s also a bit of a risk taker, and after being advised by her BFF to “go for it,” she begins an improbable, long-distance relationship with Rob. The same risk-taking behavior emerges in Book 2, Deeper, when she’s forced to acknowledge her husband’s eight-year-old love child and must decide if she’s willing to continue her marriage under vastly different circumstances.

Drawing on the same inner strength that got her through cancer treatment, she is ultimately able to express her disappointment and anger to Rob, while re-affirming her commitment to him and her new step-son.

Perhaps the greatest test of her inner resolve occurs in Deep End, when a disaster forces her to confront the possibility of life without her beloved husband.

Give her a guiding principle.

Claire’s favorite quote, which also becomes her mantra, is from Goethe: “Nothing is worth more than this day.” It is the perfect summation of who she is and how she approaches her post-cancer life. Not even a life-threatening illness could take away her fun-loving spirit and her determination to live fully, the very qualities that initially attracted Rob to her.

Let her have flaws.

She’s far from perfect. Claire worries about her scarred abdomen, disfigured from cancer surgeries. She continues to obsess over Rob’s first wife, a brilliant screenwriter killed in a car accident. Doubts about her relationship and endless taunts by Baby Mama land her in legal trouble and cause her to lose a promising new client. Her loathing of the news media manages to gain her more publicity, instead of less.

Like so many of us, she tends to suppress her negative feelings until they erupt in a damaging way. Although she struggles at times, the fact that she is able to move past her struggles and re-focus on what is most important in her life makes her a well-rounded and likeable heroine, scars and all.


kathleen-duhamel croppedKathleen Duhamel is the author of the Deep Blue Trilogy (Deep Blue, Deeper, and Deep End) and At Home With Andre. She wrote and illustrated her first short story at the age of eight, and has been a writer for most of her life.. Her love of the written word continued throughout her varied career as a newspaper journalist and editor, public relations executive, freelance travel writer and owner/operator of two small businesses. A native of Texas, she has spent most of her adult life in Colorado. She lives in the Denver area with her husband, a geriatric standard poodle and a spoiled cat. She is a lifelong devotee of rock and soul music, contemporary art, and pop culture.

Kathleen’s latest novel is coming out this fall DEEP END:

When her close-to-perfect world falls apart, can love still prevail?

After years of struggle and harsh criticism, happily married rock star wife Claire Martin has finally achieved the career success of her dreams. As the featured artist in an international traveling exhibit, she looks forward to her best year ever, while her husband, singer Robert Silver of the legendary band Deep Blue, contemplates a return to touring.

Things are also looking up for Claire’s best friend, Denise Hrivnak, who’s planning her wedding to Robert’s musical partner, Art Hoffman. However, what should have been most joyful day of Denise’s life turns to tragedy when an unexpected event forces both woman to contemplate the terrifying possibility of life without the men they love.

Besieged by the paparazzi and sick with worry, Claire waits for answers in a Las Vegas hotel room, thinking over her improbable relationship with Rob and praying that love alone is strong enough to bring her husband back from the brink.


Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 9.51.39 AMSecrets of the past seldom stay buried forever…

Now married to the love of her life, landscape artist Claire Martin’s peaceful world is rocked by an unexpected revelation that crushes her dreams of the future and causes her to question everything she thought she knew about her famous husband, legendary singer Robert Silver of the band Deep Blue.

Although Robert is now clean and sober, and embarking on a new opportunity with his musical partner Art Hoffman, the consequences of one night long ago fracture his family and threaten his marriage to the woman who loves him like no one else.

Will love survive, or will career pressures, family turmoil and the ever-present specter of the paparazzi destroy their new life together?








Mystery Mondays: Kathleen Burkinshaw

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming author, Kathleen Burkinshaw to Mystery Mondays. It’s a special week for Kathleen. Her novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, is being released in one week. But don’t worry, you can pre-order it now on amazon. Let’s help her celebrate, by welcoming her in the comments below.

Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Last Cherry Blossom_cover (2)Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden from its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

My Personal History Behind The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen  Burkinshaw

Growing up I remember an 8 x 10 elegantly framed black and white photo of my mom sitting with her Papa. She was about 4 years old and dressed in a kimono while her Papa was wearing a yukata (casual summer kimono). My mother treasured that picture. It was one of only a handful she had from her childhood. Those photos were also taken when she was about 4. She didn’t have any of her older than that. Other family pictures were all destroyed, along with her home, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She only had these few pictures because they were at a cottage they vacationed at in the country. That picture is what inspired me to write about the relationship and love my mom had with/for her Papa.

During my daughter’s elementary school years, I went to her class each year, read a picture book about Japanese culture, and we would do a Japanese craft related to the book I read.

When my daughter was in seventh grade, she told me that her class’ section on WWII would be ending that week, and she overheard some students talking about seeing that ‘cool picture of the mushroom cloud’. She asked me if I could talk about her grandmother and all of the people who were under the now famous mushroom cloud. That question inspired me to present my mother’s experience on August 6th to middle/high school students.

When I was younger, my mother told me what she lost that day in August. But she never gave me any specific details of this event. Her memories were still too painful to discuss.

After my daughter’s request, my mother decided she was ready to tell me more of what had actually happened on the most horrific day of her life. She hoped by sharing her experience, students would realize that the use of nuclear weapons against any country or people, for any reason, is unacceptable.

The following year, my daughter’s previous teacher requested that I present to her history class and to the entire 7th grade at the school. I phoned my mom and asked more questions about her life at home during the war before August 6th. A week later a copy of her favorite picture with her Papa arrived in the mail. That’s when I knew there’s a story here, not just of horror and loss, but of love, and joyful family memories.

My daughter is about to begin her second year of college, and I continue to visit that seventh grade class at her old school. Over the past six years I have added other local middle schools to visit. Each year the students who have heard my non-political presentation, expressed their gratitude to my mother for sharing such a personal, traumatizing memory. Teachers included my presentation in their history curriculum because they felt that the lecture gave students new insight into how children lived during the war. And more importantly, students learned that the Japanese children had the same hopes and fears as the children in the Allied countries.

Teachers, friends, my family, and most importantly my mother encouraged me to finish writing The Last Cherry Blossom. I wanted to write this book not just to honor my mother and her family, but to honor all the people that suffered or died from the effects of pika don. I want readers to know that the victims were all someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, or child.

Originally, scientists said nothing would grow again in Hiroshima for many years after the bomb was dropped. Yet the cherry blossoms bloomed again the following spring. The cherry blossoms endured much like the spirit of the people affected by the bombing in Hiroshima, much like my mother.

The Last Cherry Blossom publishes one week after this post! It’s a bittersweet time. My mom passed away in January 2015. However, she did read the latest draft (at that time) of the manuscript and knew it was going to be published. Her elegantly framed, treasured photo now has a prominent place in my home.

Last summer my family visited Hiroshima to honor my mother at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims. Standing on the same ground where she experienced so much loss and destruction when she was only twelve years old, broke my heart.

My mother lost so much that fateful day, yet she gained an inner strength she never thought possible. Whenever I look at the picture of my mom with her Papa, and when I think of all the love she had given my daughter and myself, I’m reminded that love prevails over fear.


WHO IS Kathleen Burkinshaw?

Burkinshaw, Kathleen wnbaKathleen Burkinshaw resides in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college (dreading the reality of being an empty nester-most of the time), and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja.  Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has carried her mother’s story her whole life and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

You can connect with Kathleen on twitter @klburkinshaw1

or find her on her website or at other fun sites…