10 Insights into the Characters of Surviving the Stillness

My favorite part of creating characters is getting to know them outside the stories themselves.  So I thought I’d share some of the unique things I’ve learned about some of the characters you’ve come to know from my book Surviving the Stillness.


1. Despite loving to run, Matthew Mason isn’t a very fast runner. In his time with the orphans of St Catherine’s, he only won a handful of foot races.

2. As a child, Abigail Morgan was known for her fearlessness. She would take any dare, climb any tree, even snuck into the old abandoned watermill and slept there overnight.

3. Samuel Mason liked to help set the type for the pages of his uncle’s newspaper. He also secretly loved to put errors in to see if anyone would catch them.

4. Dr. Mason was known for his debating skills in high school. He was always challenging his teachers and classmates in Omaha and was voted most likely to run for political office.

5. Mother Margaret had begged God not to let her be one of the sisters chosen to start the new orphanage in Montana. She wasn’t fond of the cold or children. But as God tends to do, He showed her that His will would work through her weaknesses.

6. Sister Ernestine was trained and worked as nurse in a Catholic hospital. Selected by the bishop because of the need for the remote orphanage and convent to have someone with medical training available, Sister Ernestine didn’t know any of the other sisters. However, she was quickly accepted by them as the harsh realities of building a convent and orphanage in the wilderness took its toll.

7. Father Andrew was sent to replace the ailing Father Michael who was the first parish priest of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church just a few years after the orphanage opened. He was intimidated by the fact he was younger than the sisters and was responsible for not only their spiritual care but the orphans they cared for.

8. Sister Monica emigrated from Spain to New York as a teenager with her parents and six brothers and sisters. After experiencing the harsh reality of tenement housing and factory work, she decided to enter a convent in New York. She rarely speaks because she is embarrassed she never formally learned English.

9. Sister Josephine was sent with Sister Monica and a few others once the orphanage was built and there was a need for more hands to do the work. She had hoped joining a missionary Benedictine order would mean traveling to far parts of the world. She was disappointed when she was told she would be going to Montana.

10. As a girl, Grace Henderson was one of the few children who lived in town and had school lessons with Father Andrew. She was very quiet and usually ate her lunch on the church steps while the other children played out in the street or down by the river. Once a week, an elderly woman would come to make confession with Father Andrew. Every time Gracie would greet her and ask her how she was doing. The other children made fun of Gracie for talking to the woman, who was a bit of a pariah, no one talked about. But all those years of little exchanges impacted the woman and when she died she left Miss Gracie her home and everything in it.

Which character would you love to see more of in the rest of the series?

3 thoughts on “10 Insights into the Characters of Surviving the Stillness”

  1. How do you think race impacted Matthew Mason’s character? In the book, there are a few comments, but did he ever experience full-on racial hatred?


    1. I had so much I wanted to fit into book one but couldn’t without creating an epic saga…lol. One was Abigail’s conversion and the second was the issue of Matthew’s split heritage and the prejudice he faces because of it. Both will be explored more in the rest of the series but to answer your question:

      Yes he has. Before his mother died it was mostly indirectly from watching how the community treated her. He doesn’t remember the worst of it as he was only three when they arrived in Fairfield, but he remembers how women wouldn’t invite her to ladies gatherings and how people would ask him if his pa was with a patient before going in, in hopes that they could get Dr. Mason to look after their needs instead of his mother. For the most part though he was sheltered. His mother looked after his education, his playmates were limited to a few like the Everett boys who were raised to treat people the way they wanted to be treated, and he was kept close in church and in town and showered in love at home. His knowledge of his Lakota roots are mostly in story form, much the way Christian kids know Noah and the Ark and David and Goliath. He knows his heritage has application to his life, but is stripped of most of its context without the culture that goes with it.

      When his mother dies everything changes. Even though he is sheltered from his father’s suspicions that his mother’s death wasn’t an accident, Matthew is keenly aware that his mother being Lakota has something to do with why Mr. Scroggins didn’t like her. So when he starts to rebel by running across the Scroggin’s property to get to the church, he is testing his security net with his father, his community, and with God. But he has no idea how much it terrifies his father to find him gone time after time. All Matthew sees is his father’s anger and attempts to control the situation by punishment. Matthias on the other hand is dealing with several things at once so when his in-laws offer to take Matthew in hopes that they can help him deal with his mother’s death the way they helped her deal with losing her family, Matthias takes it as a sign they are supposed to go back to Nebraska. So he sends Matthew ahead while he finds a doctor to replace him in Fairfield and comes to terms with what the future is going to be without Helen.

      But in Nebraska, Matthew is thrust into facing prejudice. Even though his grandparents keep him close, people aren’t afraid to taunt, tease, even threaten him. The reality that no one other than his grandparents take any action to protect him, scares him to the point of having nightmares. His grandfather quickly realizes how sheltered he’s been and how deep his roots are with the community in Montana and tells Matthias, that Matthew needs the stability of his home, his community, his father and that moving to Nebraska would be a mistake. Matthew returns home more lost than when he left. Matthias realizes the only way he knows to keep Matthew safe is to make him more autonomous like himself. This is where the rift begins between father and son. Matthew thinks it’s because he reminds his father of his mother but really it’s two fold, it’s fear of not being able to protect Matthew and fear of not being able to properly prepare Matthew to be on his own.

      So in step Mother Margaret and Father Andrew who are both keenly aware of the bigger picture. Mother Margaret insists after the first real incident of Matthew being beaten up by a gang of orphan boys that his father cut his hair and make him dress like the orphan boys do in simple shirts, pants, and shoes. Matthias does it reluctantly under the guise of teaching Matthew to be his assistant and telling him he has to act the way he wants people to treat him. And this is where the lie comes in for Matthew as it did for his mother. That acting like white society is going to be the only way to earn their respect. And because Matthew loves his father and desperately wants his approval he doesn’t really question it.

      He learns to buy his way into acceptance with the orphans. He learns to accept he is going to have to work harder and be ten times better to get the same recognition. But you won’t see until Book 2 how that plays out in practical application at the university. How going back to Nebraska as a man and not a boy makes for a very different experience.

      Long answer for a short question, but I couldn’t pick and choose without context.

      Liked by 1 person

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