Today the Christmas spotlight shines on................................................Katrina, Dr Ringle and Molar
Christmas is the time for little gems of novels to make their presence felt and Kevin Alan Milne's latest release, The Paper Bag Christmas, is such a gem. Kevin kindly provided background on all three of his major characters so enjoy the insight:~
Brief physical description of your main characters:
Katrina Barlow is a contentious nine-year-old girl whose physical appearance has been marred by cancer and the intrusiveness of the medical treatments she has endured. Little remains of her once beautiful brown hair, and her scalp and face are scarred and withered. Her own outward appearance, along with the cruel stares and comments it draws from others, is more than Katrina can bear, so she hides her face beneath the safety of a paper bag. Most of the world sees her only as a pair of sad green eyes, looking out at the world through the holes in her paper disguise.
Dr. Christopher Ringle is Katrina’s doctor, a pediatric oncologist who also happens to moonlight at the mall as a volunteer Santa. From the waist up, Dr. Ringle’s graying good looks blend well with his gentle Scottish voice. Like his patients, he has also had his share of physical misfortune in life. The loss of his legs in war has left him confined to a wheelchair, which he merrily adorns during the holidays with red and green Christmas lights.
Molar Alan is an average looking pre-teen boy. He is a jeans-and-sneakers kind of kid who cares more about how other people feel about themselves than he does about what they think of him. He has brown hair, blue eyes, a caring smile, and a naïve concern for others that will melt hearts.
Actor/famous person who might resemble her/him
Prior to developing cancer, Katrina looked (in my mind) like a young Dakota Fanning. After the illness and surgeries? She still has Fanning’s penetrating eyes, but the rest of her beauty lies dormant somewhere deeper within.
Dr. Ringle is the easiest character to visualize. Think of a legless Sean Connery rolling himself happily around in a wheelchair, and you’ve got it nailed.
Molar Alan could look like any boy you pass on the street. But since the story is Molar’s personal boyhood memory from the ‘80’s, let’s jump back in time and tag him as a Jason Bateman look-a-like, circa 1981.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strength: Unwavering determination to carry on amid adversity
Strength: Compassion for others
Weakness: Candy Cane addiction
Strength: Knows how to be a true friend
Weakness: Naivety in a complex world
Inspiration for the character(s)
I won’t name names, but growing up I knew an amazing girl whose life was deeply affected by tragedy. Her scars weren’t outwardly visible like Katrina’s, but the wounds she bore were every bit as deep and dark. Almost overnight she lost the happiness in her life. But through her trial, which continued for years, she did her best to soldier on, often all alone. I hope by now that she has found what was missing in her life, and that the happiness has returned. I wish I could have been her Molar.
What modern Christmas story would be complete without some sort of a Santa figure? In this story, that part is played by Dr. Ringle, and I drew upon all the Jolly ole’ Saint Nick stories I’d ever heard to create a character with a sleigh (wheelchair), a red suit (medical scrubs; costume at the mall), and with a ceaseless desire to give children the very best gifts (though not always what they had in mind).
Much of Molar’s personality came from my own quirky slant on life, so in that respect I based him on me. But the rest of his character — things like his patience, understanding, and ability to see the best in people without judging—are more or less a reflection of the ‘me’ I’d like to become.
Background to the story
Several years ago a good friend, then a teenager, developed cancer. It was the first experience I’d had with someone going through the rigorous and painful treatments for the awful disease. As I visited him and his family in the hospital, I was astounded to see how many children were there, quietly going about their business, trying hard to regain their healthy dreams of youth. Parents wept, grandparents wept, brothers and sisters tried to be brave, and collectively they prayed and hoped for the very best. I passed by one room and saw a volunteer tenderly rocking a 2-year-old cancer patient to sleep, because the child’s parents were too worn out from holding him all day long.
That experience triggered thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I just couldn’t keep to myself, so I poured them onto paper in the form of the Paper Bag Christmas. The idea to make it a Christmas story grew out of the sometimes-forgotten truth that the material gift giving we usually associate with Christmas pales in comparison to the joy that comes from friendship, service, and helping those in need.
[Personal Note: The ultimate irony came only after the story had been written and was being prepared for publication: my own daughter, just two years old, had a tumor removed from her hand at the very hospital portrayed in the story. Life, as they say, sometimes imitates art.]
On Thursday, I will be spotlighting Christa Parrish's Sarah Graham from her debut release, Home Another Way.
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