Guest post: Brenda Baker, author of The Elusive Mr. McCoy
When I first heard about The Elusive Mr. McCoy, by Brenda Baker, I was excited since I’m fascinated with bigamy and polygamy for some odd reason. When I had the opportunity to ask Brenda a question, I knew exactly what it would be: How do you do research for a book with a bigamist in it? Here’s what Brenda had to say:
While working on THE ELUSIVE MR. MCCOY, I came across some fascinating material that couldn’t be used in the book, because as everyone knows, truth is stranger than fiction. So I was delighted when Kathy asked me to do a guest post on researching bigamy. Writing can be hard work, but research is all play for me, and bigamy is a very juicy topic indeed.
When I started writing the character of McCoy, I had the typical layman’s concept of bigamy: a rare and dastardly crime performed by handsome, morally-depraved men. It didn’t take me long to discover that unrepentant con artists for whom matrimony is a profession are the exception rather than the rule.
My favorite stereotypical bigamist was the awesome Oliver Killeen, who may have married up to eighteen women, all but one without the benefit of divorce. He was also accused of practicing psychotherapy for five years in Ireland without a degree in psychology, or any degree at all for that matter, since his public Facebook profile clearly states he attended the School of Hard Knocks. Ollie was convicted on one count of bigamy last year and is currently serving a 90-day intermittent sentence in a Toronto jail on weekends.
Another exceptional bigamist I found was Charles Edward Hicks, who littered the eastern seaboard with broken-hearted wives and girlfriends. Undeterred by the jail sentences he has served for bigamy, Charlie continues to frequent internet dating sites, although after being outed on an episode of Dr. Phil, he is forced to use an alias to get dates.
Neither of these men were what you’d call eye candy, so I deduced they must have some other quality that caused large numbers of women to fall at their feet. Because few of their wives pressed charges, and one of Charles’ victims claims to still love him, it seemed reasonable to assume both men had the ability to give women the illusion of love and I concluded that bigamy, like tango dancing, took two—the deluder and the delusional. How else to explain this lack of vengeance after proof of such blatant betrayal?
Ollie and Charlie aside, most of the common ideas of bigamy seem to be myths.
Myth number one: Bigamy is rare. Actually, it’s much more common than you’d think, especially in China where it is described as “rampant.” In America, the Fight Bigamy website maintains a list of bigamists currently in the news. Here’s the link in case you want to see if anyone you know is on it: http://fightbigamy.typepad.com/
Myth number two: Bigamists are amoral dastards. On the contrary, bigamists are more like serial monogamists, moving on to the next relationship only after the previous one has collapsed. My admittedly unscientific research indicates that most of them are either careless people who didn’t bother to ensure their divorce was finalized before taking their next trip up the aisle, or lazy people who felt it was unnecessary to go through all the expense and trauma of getting a divorce.
Myth number three: Only handsome, smooth-talking men are bigamists. That one must have started prior to Women’s Liberation because bigamy is an equal opportunity crime now. Also bigamists of both sexes seem to be, for the most part, quite average-looking, and a few are downright ugly.
Myth number four: Bigamy is a serious offense. Actually, it’s a class C or D felony in most states, barely a crime at all. Punishment is usually a small fine or a few years in jail that is commuted to parole unless the conviction is for multiple offenses.
After a few weeks of research, I realized creating a fictional bigamist from real life examples was going to be problematic. In fiction, while it is possible to give the villain any number of flaws, there must be at least one redeeming quality to create a believable antagonist. I had found a wealth of flaws to choose from, but redemptive qualities were conspicuously lacking.
Then I ran across a news article about a man who was both a loving Christian husband and a happily married Muslim. He possessed the perfect redeeming quality for my story. Unfortunately, and I’m terribly sorry about this, I can’t tell you what it is, because that would be a spoiler.
But I can tell you this: everyone who has read the book so far, ended up liking, or at least feeling sorry for, the elusive Mr. McCoy.
Born in Toronto, Brenda spent 35 years writing computer programs in Canada, the United States and the Netherlands, before becoming a novelist. Her passion is exploring new cultures, with knitting and reading tied for second place. She likes cats, but resists owning one herself, since everyone knows little old ladies can’t stop at just one.
Brenda’s recently released book, THE ELUSIVE MR. MCCOY, is a richly emotional journey of two women drawn together by an unexpected and unwanted bond. To read an excerpt, visit www.brendalbaker.com