Joel Bridges, along with his sister Celestine, are the main characters in the Travels to Fahdamin-Ra series. He is an energetic 12-year-old boy who loves animals and always seems to be running headlong into trouble.
Like Celestine, Joel is an unusual character in young adult fantasy books because he is brown. When he and his sister are whisked away to Fahdamin-Ra, he adapts quickly to the situation, and is eager to explore, even if that means following a leopard into the brush. When he creates his dragon, Cheswick, it is another example of Joel's love of animals, but he has not stopped to think of the consequences. While crossing the savannah, he has time to regret creating the mythical creature and bringing it to life.
I based Joel's character on my son, Toliver. It was relatively easy for me to work with the characters of Celestine and Joel, because they are based on my children. Joel and Celestine's relationship with each other was easy to establish after years of observing my kids. I like the way Celestine alternates between being protective of her younger brother and being exasperated with him. I like Joel's energy and enthusiasm, and the way that he mostly complies with his older sister.
I hope that readers pick up on the feeling that he was close to Father King Sudi, and that is why Joel carries a little elephant figure that Sudi gave him in his Spirit Pouch. One of my favorite parts of Across the Savannah (if authors are allowed to have a favorite part in their books) is when Joel looks through his Spirit Pouch, examining each item that makes him think about some of the people he cares about. I think that men would like it if Spirit Pouches caught on - instead of a bulky wallet and keys making unsightly bulges in their pants pockets, they could have a spirit pouch dangling off of their belt.
It was hard at first to have Joel narrate the book, because I wrote it in first person and I did not want him to sound exactly like his sister. It took a little experimenting, but Joel's style is less descriptive, and more action. Once I developed the style and became accustomed to writing that way, it was fun. I always like getting to the action parts, building up the scene. Joel's enthusiasm and energy makes it easy for me to jump into the action.
If you are a reader that likes Joel, you will see much more of him in the upcoming two books. The fourth book in the series will feature Joel telling the story, which I hope to make humorous.