With this post, I am reviving the weekly Character Traits Series, which gives my fellow authors an opportunity to promote their books. The first is by Morwenna Blackwood, who has chosen Kayleigh-Amanda Tarr, a character in her Glasshouse series. A UK author with darkstroke books, Morwenna writes noir psychological thrillers. Here, I will let her tell you about the character she created.
How can I try explain Kayleigh without trying to explain everyone around her? People are inextricably linked, which is the reason I started the Glasshouse series! Still, I’ll have a go …
Kayleigh-Amanda Tarr first appeared in 2020, in The (D)Evolution of Us. She is twenty-one years old, heavily pregnant, and living alone in a flat in a Victorian terraced house in Eskwich, Devon. She soon gives birth to a baby son, Liam.
Her best friend, Cath, recently died, and although the coroner declared the cause of death suicide, Kayleigh believes Cath’s boyfriend, Richard, murdered her.
Kayleigh was diagnosed with Bi-polar Disorder as a teenager, and despite the turmoil she is in at this point, she is ‘doing well’, having regular meetings with her psychiatrist, Dr. Whittle. She’s been teased and bullied about it throughout her life, and experiences discrimination; as she does for her religious beliefs: nature religions make more sense to Kayleigh than her Church of England upbringing, and she practices Wicca.
It’s the late 1990s in The (D)Evolution of Us — the era of the ‘ladette’ — and in spite of the hippy-style clothes she wears, Kayleigh certainly fits that nomination. She’s the life and soul of the party, seemingly wild and free, and her friend and landlord, Will, is deeply in love with her. Hating herself for it, but unable to stop, Kayleigh flirts with him, and occasionally they hook up. And that’s not the only complication in her love life. Richard, Cath’s boyfriend, insinuates himself into Kayleigh’s life after Cath’s death, helping her when she goes into labour and supporting her with Liam, while systematically abusing her. And all the time, Kayleigh is pining for Adam. Adam used to go out with Cath, but he and Kayleigh secretly fell in love — and then he disappeared. Kayleigh hates herself for that, too.
She tells everyone that Liam is the result of a one-night-stand, and no one is surprised.
Kayleigh’s choices have far-reaching effects that impact on everyone in The (D)Evolution of Us, Glasshouse, Underrated, and Skin and Bone, and with Liam in his twenties in the last book I wrote, her story never really ends …
The inspiration for Kayleigh, and other matters.
Kayleigh’s name came from the Marillion song! I loved the idea of having a character who said they were named after a song, even though their age belies it. Music is central to the Glasshouse series — evoking atmosphere and placing a story in time. The fact that Kayleigh lies about where her name came from speaks volumes about her character. She likes to stand out from the crowd, but it comes from a place of deep insecurity.
Kayleigh isn’t based on a real person, rather she is a blend several events I’ve experienced and born witness to. Her physical appearance and self-expression reflect her psychology.
Regarding the books she appears in, I’ll concentrate on The (D)Evolution of Us as it’s the first time I wrote about Kayleigh, and May is the novel’s birthday month. (TDofU was three on Star Wars Day!)
As I’ve said, Kayleigh and Cath are best friends. A cruel twist of Fate exacerbates their mental ill-health, and they both seek escape, solace and oblivion in alcohol. It’s the late 1990s, and given that they find themselves in a culture of indie music, rebellion and binge-drinking, the fact that they’re essentially self-medicating goes unnoticed; however, Cath’s death is — to everyone but Kayleigh — clearly suicide brought on by her depression.
Cath’s death hits Kayleigh hard, and she finds it unbearable that she gives birth around the time her best friend dies. With her parents having split up years ago — her mother back ‘Up North’ and her father remarried and living in France — Kayleigh relies heavily on her friends. The trouble is, being friends with someone doesn’t mean you know them inside-out …
All the Glasshouse novels are told in the present tense from a first-person narrative, so readers experience Kayleigh’s thought processes directly. As to the question of whether Kayleigh is likable or not, well, that’s entirely subjective!
It could be argued that she uses Will to keep a roof over her and Liam’s heads; as a sounding board; as a back-up. However, she really does like him, and feels terrible that she has a tendency to lead him on. And it’s the only way she can see of protecting her son, and surviving herself.
It could be argued that Kayleigh is despicable for betraying her best friend, continuing a clandestine relationship with the lad Cath loves. But again, Kayleigh hates herself for it, simultaneously believing that love is pure and holy, and that if Cath knew what she feels for Adam, she would understand.
It could be argued that if Kayleigh just stopped drinking, and took responsibility for herself, she’d have fewer problems. But Kayleigh is lost. She uses drugs and alcohol as an escape from everything she’s dealing with; also, it’s imbedded in the culture she’s part of.
It could be argued that Kayleigh is weak and brings everything on herself. But she’s been abandoned by all the people you’d expect to be the ‘rocks’ of your life — parents, family, lover, best friend – and she suffers heinous discrimination and prejudice because of her illness and her spirituality.
Personally, my heart goes out to Kayleigh. She seeks justice for her friend, while raising a child, and being psychologically and physically abused. She’s trying to do her best, and I empathise. However, she’s not infallible. But then, who is …?
When she was six years old, Morwenna wrote an endless story about a frog, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She’s the author of bestselling noir psychological thrillers, The (D)Evolution of Us, Glasshouse, Underrated and Skin and Bone; has an MA in Creative Writing, and can usually be found down by the sea. Morwenna has several works in progress, and she often thinks about that frog.
Find Section 17, Morwenna’s newly released collection of poetry at bit.ly/42oC6CT