Mark to Murder is populated with a diverse cast of characters, major and minor. Of those Mark and Ahmet, the two main heroes, were the only ones I originally conceived before starting the novel. They were autobiographical but heavily fictionalized.
But then I had to create countless other characters from thin air. The ones associated with the English High School of Istanbul, all based on real people, were easy. Others took a lot of work. Some major characters came to life or developed in unexpected ways.
Iancu Negrescu for example, originated out of a need to illuminate a room. The Royal Suite at Gresham Palace Hotel was totally dark when Mark entered it, looking for his old friend Ahmet. He would eventually discover Ahmet dead in the bathtub. But first he needed to get his bearings and find a light switch. For much needed assistance, I came up with Ahmet’s iPhone. It rang and its screen lit up, illuminating the room. But then, who was calling? I invented a Romanian name for the screen, Iancu! A while later I realized that I had to bring this Iancu to life and put him on stage.
Jasmin, the young policewoman, another important character, was initially a simple accessory, a driver taking Mark to the police station. Then, when the story required that Mark receive inside access to Rendőrség, Budapest police, I figured Jasmin, already in the story, may as well do it. She came with the added bonus of serving as a romantic interest. She thus got elevated to a starring role.
I used real life photos of female Rendőrség officers, as in the photo, to describe Jasmin.
Tibor Bognár, the Slovakian crime boss was a tough nut to crack. I avoided him at first, thinking I could get by without this character. But early in the story I had a breathless chase seen in and around a seedy strip club, in which Mark almost got killed. The gang that chased him had to be fully explained. It took much research to create Bognár. I wanted him to be different than stereotypical movie gangsters.
Sometimes a real life person, if available, can be a useful model for a character. The man you see in the photo, Karol Mello, is a real life Slovakian crime boss. He was my main inspiration. I added a personal touch to him, a giant tattoo on the left shoulder of a lion with its mouth open, teeth showing. It’s a detail I am proud of.
Playing God by creating and controlling characters is one of the main joys of writing fiction. When I finished the novel, I was amazed at how many I managed to create. Nowadays, I am doing the same as I write a sequel. Those new characters will remain a secret until it is published.