Casting The Sorrowful Girl

When I’m working on a book, I tape photographs of actors who I picture for my characters on a school-sized poster board and prop it up in my writing area. I do that to help with my description of the character’s appearance. Also, by studying how they act, I can more easily zoom in on those small expressions and gestures I hope to capture.

Liam Barrett, the Hero

For my hero, Liam Barrett, I picked James Norton, formerly of Grantchester. He’s a British actor but I think if you put a peaked cap on him, suspenders, and hand him a peat cutter, he’d fit right in at the pub.

The Liam character is someone who little old ladies, like myself, would bring home to feed and introduce to their niece. He is soft-spoken, hates violence, responsible, and kind. He is a good son to his mother in failing health, a work mate for his sister, Kate, who has taken over the household and farm, and a father figure to their feisty younger brother, Kevin, and religious younger sister, Clare. He’s the first Irish policeman in Adams, Massachusetts, where he concerns himself deeply with its people and keeping the peace.

Father Frank, the Sidekick

His side kick is Father Frank, built like a bull but pretty in the face and with bouncing black curls. He takes his priest duties seriously yet shocks his parishioners by telling stories from the “old religion” when invited to dinner. He needles Liam at times, perhaps because the collar lets him get away with it.

Alistair Cunningham, the Antogonist

The main antagonist is Alistair Cunningham, a Scottish-born industrialist, who has built his “summer cottage” in nearby Pittsfield, and hired Adams residents, amongst others, to staff it. For him, I selected James Cosmo, the Scottish actor who appeared in Braveheart. For my money, he is the only actor who should ever play Big Ger McCafferty in Rebus. Just as there is only one Miss Marple and only one Poirot, there is only one Big Ger.

Malcom Dunbar, the Henchman

Alistair’s surly side kick is Malcom Dunbar, who he brought with him from Scotland. Malcom does the dirty work. Tom Hardy is perfect for him, as there is no one who does surly as well as he does. And I like looking at him.

Hope you like my casting!

Learn More:

About The Sorrowful Girl

Liam Barrett embodied the hopes and dreams of his family, bound for Harvard Law School. When his father unexpectedly dies, he gives up his plans and goes to work providing for his family in Adams, Massachusetts. As a policeman who abhors violence and who possesses an ability to calm agitated people, he strives to mediate disputes and keep peace in his community.

When a young Adams woman is found murdered near the state of mill owner Alistair Cunningham, Cunningham pressures Liam to make a quick arrest.But Liam wants justice. As he fights to ensure that an innocent man is not railroaded, Liam uncovers a sinister plot forcing him to choose between his pacifist conviction and his duty to protect his town.


Praise for The Sorrowful Girl

Powell’s ability to create an explosive plotline focused on solving a crime is evidenced in her inclusion of the tenor of the time and location to add authenticity to the narrative, quickly immersing readers into the sinister nature of this murder and building to a shocking conclusion. – Booklife Editor’s Pick

Part social history, part adventure, part murder mystery, part family saga, THE SORROWFUL GIRL is a pacy and absorbing tale of rough men and flinty women carving out their lives despite sectarianism, injustice and corruption. The hurtle towards the final showdown is irresistible. CATRIONA McPHERSON, multi-award-winning author of In Place of Fear

Keenan Powell’s The Sorrowful Girl takes us on a compelling visit to western Massachusetts in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Liam Barrett, honor-bound and decent lawman, battles anti-Irish prejudice, corrupt police, and scheming robber barons as he searches for answers in the murder of a young Catholic girl. Desperate to escape her humble origins and bleak future, Deirdre Monaghan dares to dream of a better life, but meets her tragic end in a dark wood instead. Echoes of Celtic myths whisper through the Berkshires in this powerful historical mystery. The Sorrowful Girl packs an emotional wallop. Damn good! —JAMES ZISKIN, author of the Anthony, Barry, and Macavity award-winning Ellie Stone mysteries

Learn more:

Biography of Keenan Powell

Keenan Powell is a Lefty and Agatha nominated author. Although she was one of original Dungeons and Dragons illustrators, art seemed an impractical pursuit – not an heiress, wouldn’t marry well, hated teaching – so she went to law school. The day after graduation, she moved to Alaska where she has vowed to practice until she gets it right.

Visit her at:


  1. I use the photo thing, too, grabbing from magazines, usually for characters specific to that book. It’s a great visual device.
    The book sounds wonderful!

  2. Keenan, this was such a creative and fun idea for an introduction to your latest book, A SORROWFUL GIRL.
    PS: I stole a snapshot of your Father Frank–in my imaginary world, he’s perfect for the male half of my crime-solving dynamic duo.
    Best of Luck with your latest Liam Barrett Gilded Age novel.

  3. i use this character idea, too, sort of; I just pull pictures off the Internet. My problem with using actors is that I rarely want a pretty-boy or -girl. Of course, there are a lot of ordinary-looking actors these days. Anyhow, great idea.

    Also, I love these characters and how they’re described. No flat, dull characters here. Thanks for this post.

    1. Thanks so much! I find that British actors have more interesting faces than American actors. I’m currently fascinated with Jason Watkins who is in McDonalds and Dobbs and the Poirot episode, The Clocks, and played a truly horrible entity in BBC Being Human. I envision a role for him in my next Liam.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *