TODAY’S BREW: Whatever Sammy wants. He’s sad school is out.
I’m a character writer and editor. I strongly feel that your story’s plot can be the most original and exciting thing to grace the book pages since The Bible and if the character doesn’t drive the story and make you feel, nobody will care. Coincidentally, your plot can be very straightforward and something that’s “been done” a million times, but if the character is complex and rich, that keeps a person reading. Of course, the gold star we all search for is the melding of both things, which requires a lot of research, a lot of editing, and a lot of heart.
This is something our good friend and gifted author, Cass Page, knows a little something about. So I asked her to tell me about how Isla of ISLA’S INHERITANCE came to be such a thoughtful and exciting character. (Also, follow Cass on Twitter https://twitter.com/CassandraPage01 and enter to win an e copy of the book! Tweet #IslasInheritance!)
Accidental themes and being human
by Cassandra Page
I am an unrepentant geek. I play computer games, have a crush on the Doctor and was sorted into Ravenclaw. My geek t-shirt collection is formidable, my coat is kind of a brownish colour, and I role-play—including the bastion of geek awesome that is Dungeons and Dragons. Before I had my son, I used to live action role-play too, dressing up as a vampire or werewolf and physically acting out my characters.
All that role-playing—especially the live-action stuff, which by its nature is immersive—gave me a great foundation on which to build when I sat down to write my first novel, Isla’s Inheritance. Coming up with role-playing characters in games you’re invested in is a lot like coming up with characters for a novel. In both cases, you can spend months or years getting inside the character’s head, thinking about what drives them, living with them through their triumphs and their failures. When my first live-action character died, I cried for days. It was like losing a friend. Like the world’s most epic book hangover.
Of all the characters I’ve created, Isla from my Isla’s Inheritance trilogy is one of my favourites. She’s not as crazy as the berserker teenage vampire I had, and she doesn’t worship dark gods like the Egyptian priestess who wanted to sacrifice the world to Set. She can’t shoot an arrow through someone’s eye at ridiculous distances like my ranger, and she’s never run a brothel while looking like an eighteenth century school mistress.
What Isla has is heart.
I didn’t set out at the beginning of the series with a theme like a compass in my hand, partly because it was my first novel and I was too busy worrying about whether I’d packed water and if my shoes were too tight! I knew I wanted to tell a coming-of-age tale, explore how a sceptical seventeen year old copes with discovering the father she adores has been keeping secrets from her that will change her life.
And I wanted to have fun doing it.
It only slowly dawned on me, after I’d finished the second book in the series and was plotting the third, that the underlying theme to Isla’s story was being human. The discovery reminded me of Stephen King’s observation in On Writing that the story is like a dinosaur’s bones, just waiting to be unearthed.
There are so many books with paranormal protagonists out there; I read a lot of urban fantasy, and I love a good story about people who think the world is normal discovering there is so much more to it. Discovering they have hidden superpowers.
Isla is a half-fae whose powers manifest largely as empathy. Together, she and I got to explore morality, love and what she is willing to sacrifice of herself to save those she cares about. We got to see what makes a person who they are. My books are about people struggling with what it is to be human and other, and to become an adult, all at the same time. And that’s kind of cool.
Although maybe not for my characters. 😉
Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres—although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?
All three books in the ISLA’S INHERITANCE trilogy are now available: http://cassandrapage.com/islas-inheritance/