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Working on the final revisions of my soon-to-be-released novel, The Cardholder, I’ve had the opportunity to get better acquainted with the characters – in particular, the main character’s sister, Annie. Annie is an in-your-face kind of gal; boisterous and annoying at times. The kind of annoying that parallels the sound of nails screeching on a chalkboard.

During a querying phase, I had a literary agent that was interested in representing me. She loved the premise of The Cardholder – but hated Annie. She told me she found her “very unlikable” and that I should “tone her down” if I didn’t want to turn off my readers. So, in wanting to be wise and follow the agent’s advice, I sat down and tried to reinvent Annie. But, I couldn’t. Annie was going to be “Annie” and to change her would change several dynamics with the other characters she interacted with and many important factors within the story. Was I supposed to change her so the reader would like her better, or should I keep her the way she was to convey a more compelling read? And, a more believable character, because isn’t there a world full of people that are seen as “unlikable”? 

So, I left Annie the way she was, and had a laugh one day when a friend read the book and told me that Annie was her favorite character. And recently, when my mother called me to discuss my novel, Breaking Limbo, she mentioned how much she hated the character named Meredith. I told her I didn’t like Meredith, either. Perhaps, because she reminded us of someone we knew that we did not like. Or, perhaps we did not like her because she reminded us of a part of ourselves that we don’t like.

— Kelly O’Callan

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