One of the questions I get asked most about Beyond the Door is whether the characters are based on real people. Well, it may sound daft, but that is not such an easy question to answer as you would have thought it would be. Generally, the answer I give is that the characters are all ficticious, which they are, but it is not as straight forward as that.
The main characters in the book, as anyone who has read Beyond the Door will know, are Stephen and Ian Bennet, and Paul and Jennie Southgate. Stephen, Ian and their sister Claire live in Reigate, in Surrey, whilst Paul and Jennie live in Chelmsford in Essex. This set-up, of two brothers and their sister from Surrey, and another brother and sister who live in Essex is based on a similar set-up from my childhood (in actual fact, it exists to this day). My brother Nathan, sister Charlotte and myself lived in Surrey until fairly recently, and my good friends Guy and Fiona still live in Essex. But this is where the similarities end. The names of the characters all came from the names of my friends from school, since I am hopeless at choosing authentic-sounding names! So, there are two groups of people who could claim that the characters in the book were based on them, but they would both be wrong. Despite the fact that the characters look like myself, Nathan, Charlotte, Guy and Fiona, they behave nothing like us, which is why I maintain that they are completely ficitious. Since a person’s character and personality is the most important aspect of them, I think I am justified in saying this.
One of the most interesting characters in the book in my opinion, is one which is interesting retrospectively. Jo Evans is spotted by the children working for the smugglers, and the children are a little concerned about what she is doing there. Jo’s character was introduced to be an “insider,” who is trying to bring the smugglers to justice, with the idea that she would serve her purpose and then be killed off – the token goodie who has to lose her life. But, as you’ll know, she did not die, although she came pretty close to it; I decided that I could not kill her, so she came round in the hospital! But the reason Jo’s character is so interesting to me is that she was an invention; she did not exist, and was not based on anyone I knew. She was previously the Head Girl at Jennie’s school, and is now studying for a History degree at the university of Oxford. This is quite spooky, because since I wrote the book, someone has moved into the “real” Tendringham who matches this description almost exactly, even down to her appearance!
The majority of the rest of the characters are not real, or based on anyone real. Captain Cassidy seemed the appropriate person to live in Captain Cassidy’s cottage (see the locations section), Ted and most of the rest of the smugglers are total fiction. James, the village shopkeeper, has elements of his character “borrowed” from the real “Tendringham” village shopkeeper, and some of the happenings in his shop are based on real occurences, but the complete character is, like the others, pure fiction.
The minor characters, members of the smuggling gang etc., are all fictitious.