"In these pages many mysteries are hinted at.
What if you come to understand one of them?"

"Words let water from an unseen, infinite ocean
Come into this place as energy for the dying and even the dead."

"Bored onlookers, but with such Light in our eyes!
As we read this book, the jewel-lights intensify."

- Rumi

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Julianna and Where She Came From

***Very Slight Spoiler Waring if you have not read First Chosen***

Since the first few people read TEARS OF RAGE: First Chosen, I've been getting feedback, comments, and questions about my main character, Julianna Taraen.  I've had a few people say some very nice things about her in reviews on the book's amazon page.
"The protagonist, Julianna, is the kind of strong female who I'd like to see more often, particularly since "strong female characters" have sadly become cliched lately."
"Julianna is believable as a heroine who never chose to be so. She is stubborn, clever, and brave, even as she is terrified and in serious emotional pain."
"There are some really interesting characters in this book and Julianna would have to be my favorite. She, to put it bluntly,rocks!"
I'm still slightly boggled by these quotes and that people are supporting the book as much as they have been.  Thanks to everyone.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that people are asking me so much about Julianna, as she is the focal point of the not just this book, but the whole series.  The ironic thing, is that she's a newcomer to the TEARS OF RAGE story, granted, her arrival changed the series forever once she stepped into the first scene.

Before I talk about Julianna, I need to talk about the Morigahnti and where they came from.  I invented the Morigahnti and Grandfather Shadow for a LARP (that's Live Action Role Playing).  For those of you sneering at me for being a gamer geek, Jim Butcher and Steven Erikson are gamers too, and it hasn't seemed to hurt their writing any - but I digress.  I wanted to play a more villainous character, and truth be told, Grandfather Shadow was quite a bit nastier in those days than he is in TEARS OF RAGE, but I was younger and nastier and wanted to through my weight around the LARP, speaking in the name of my diety.  I invented the title of "the Lord Morigahn" for Grandfather Shadow's high priest, I created a rudimentary language to enhance the flavor of the "Magic" one received by following Grandfather Shadow, and I created the concept of the Galad'fana.  Before the end of my first weekend of LARPing with that particular character, I had other gamers interested in following me, coming up with ways to make their own Galad'fana.  I called them the Morigahnti, (using the ti from my language to indicate a pluralization.)  In time, the Morigahnti grew in numbers, reputation, and culture, and I knew I had something special on my hands that I could use beyond the little weekend gaming things that I did.

So I started writing a novel, originally intended as a stand alone book of one volume.  Julianna wasn't in the picture yet.  I was writing a story about two brothers who got swept up in the politics between various factions of the Morigahnti.  I still have some thematic elements of that story, but it's grown so much beyond that original idea.  

Now, as I was fiddling with that story, I took my on and off girlfriend to a couple of these LARP weekends, and while she was iffy about it at first, she kinda got into the groove.  She started as being "Julie the Santa Cruz Girl," a transplant from Earth stuck in this fantasy world.  I swear she did it just to get under my skin.  Looking back it was kind of funny.  Long story short, she really eventually got into the gaming, and when I retired my original "Lord Morigahn" character, she took up the mantle of high priest of Grandfather Shadow as Julianna.  She played that role with even more cold disdain for those around her than I did. (Oh, and she was my fiance at this point.)

I'd been off writing TEARS OF RAGE for a while, but watching her really got the creative juices flowing.  What if a normal girl was called to be Grandfather Shadow's high priest.  The creative juices started flowing, I started making notes, pulling things from other half-though of ideas, and a world began to form, around Julianna that was so much more epic than my original one-novel idea.  Then, Then it came together when my 2nd son was born. I was staying in the hospital with the girl who had once been Julia the Santa Cruz girl, who was now my wife.  I knew I’d have a lot of free time on my hands, so I took a pile of books with me.  I won’t mention which books they were, because they were by fairly popular and well respected authors, but both books had female leads. Both female leads were, in my opinion, sniveling wretches and only survived because of contrived plot twists and the big strong men around them.  That decided it.  Julianna was the new main character of the book which would blow up into a series.

On my 30th Birthday, I wrote the first sentence to the new novel... and wrote and wrote and wrote.  I had three main characters in this new book: Julianna and two brothers.  Everyone love the brothers.  Not so many people were into Julianna.  That really irked me.  I was really into Julianna, and felt other people should be too.  She's the focus of the whole thing after all.  I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote... and still was having problems with her.

Then, many years and a BA in Creative Writing later, I finally figured out what the issue with Julianna was and why people weren't engaging with her as much.  Those first drafts all began with her as the Lord Morigahn.  She'd think back to the time before, but the reader doesnt' really get to experience the "before and after" of her journey.  Even during the journy, I kind of already new where she was going to end up, and so I put a lot of that character into her early personality.  But, in my defense, I was still learning how to craft engaging fiction and was still getting a handle on this developing characters thing.

So, for First Chosen, I had to go back to before what I thought of as the beginning of my story.  It was almost as if Julianna grabbed me, sat me down, and told me, "Start here you idiot.  This is the part of my story people need to read."  So I did.  She was right.  And now, as challenging as she is to write (more than any other character I've ever written, Julianna likes to wander away from what I thought I had planned out) I also love and adore her.  Not because she's my dream girl.  No, my dream girl is in another book, but I'm not telling which one.  I love and adore Julianna because she's become a force of her own.  I can feel when she's exerting her will over the story and making her own choices.  It doesn't happen very often, because for the most part, we're both on board where the story is going, but every once in  a while, I realize that I'm not writing Julianna any more - this realization usually comes after I'm staring at the computer screen for a half an hour or so in the middle of a scene, thinking to myslef, "I know what I want, but it's not happening."  Once I let go of that want, Julianna comes alive again and we're off and running.

You can read Julianna's adventures in:
First Chosen (Tears of Rage)

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