Friday, November 23, 2012

Meet the Characters of Sultana: Two Sisters - Efrain Peralta

I'm one of many writers who finds inspiration for bringing their characters to life by imagining the modern-day personages they most resemble. While polishing the penultimate draft of Sultana: Two Sisters, I thought readers who anticipate the next novel would be curious to know how some of characterization and descriptions are derived.  

First among my favorite portrayals is the character of Efrain Peralta. He is the sole remaining parent of the heroine, Esperanza. Efrain once served as personal physician to the princely household of Alfonso de la Cerda. Now disgraced and hiding a personal shame he cannot reveal to his daughter, he ventures into a new life, unaware of the peril awaiting him and his beloved child.


Actor Jordi Mollà Perales, whom I last saw as King Philip II of Spain in The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett, hails from Barcelona. When I imagined the character of Esperanza's father, he had to be a somber man respected and loved by his only daughter, with a hint of some secret torture hidden behind his eyes. There's something very enigmatic in Mollà's features that evokes the exact image of Efrain Peralta that I've had in mind for years. Here's how I describe the character in the first chapter of Sultana: Two Sisters. 

A sinewy ragged man, Efrain Peralta stood a little above the diminutive height of his daughter. The evening glare framing him, he strode toward her. The spurs worn with his zapatos drew furrows across the soil. The dusty tips of the shoes peeked from beneath the hem of his mantle. Lines etched in his olive-brown features betrayed a year’s worth of misfortune and grave concerns of which he would not speak. The dark brown hairs atop his head had lost their luster and begun a steady retreat from his gently sloping forehead. A full beard with myriad flecks of gray almost hid the creases around his mouth. At fifty-six years old, his gnarled fingers and spindly arms coupled with the receding hairline gave him the appearance of a man burdened by age. His prideful gait, the crystalline glimmer in the depths of his eyes and a commanding tone hinted at the strength he retained.

The scenes between Esperanza and her father are brief, requiring brevity for the portrayal of a father's pride and love for his daughter. In the first chapter, Efrain must protect his child from danger in the only way he can, by imbuing her with the strength that has helped him survive personal demons up until this point. It's a mix of determination and tenderness that I hope readers will find satisfying.


Efrain grasped her arms and shook her. “This is no time for your stubbornness. You are the only child God ever granted me and I will not lose you!” He wrenched from her grasp and grabbed the reins. “Get on the horse. Ride west now, the setting sun always ahead of you. At night, you will look for the North Star on your right. Do not stop until you reach the safety of Valdepeñas, where we departed from yesterday. It belongs to the caballeros of the Order of Calatrava. The Cistercians shall protect you for my sake.”
He drew his dagger and cut the strings securing a weighted pouch to his leather belt. He shoved the purse filled with coins into her hand. “For your care and comfort.”
“You want me to ride off alone into the darkness? Papa, I can’t reach Valdepeñas!”
“You can and you will! You have spent more time with horses than I ever did, since you were four years old. I am not asking you to ride on without me. I am telling you! Get on the damned horse! I will not see your life ended by a Moor’s blade. Greater peril may lie ahead, but you will make the attempt to escape.”
That he considered failure a possibility but held hope for her against the obvious threat gave clear indication of his resolve. Still Esperanza stood catatonic. Her gaze watered. 
He captured her face between his withered hands and pressed his lips to her cheeks and forehead in turn. “My most precious life. I beg of you, please go. Do not let me live my last moments knowing you did not try. Whatever happens, you must survive. If I can, I will come for you at Valdepeñas. Wait for me there.”

Look for more each month on the characters of Sultana: Two Sisters through the coming weeks.

2 comments:

Alison DeLuca said...

What a wonderful excerpt! And you are right - those eyes are mysterious, sad - they convey so much.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks, Alison. He's also one of my favorite actors if a little over the top sometimes. I'm thinking Blow & Colombiana for those roles, but he does sedate roles like in The Golden Age too.

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