#atozchallenge: Q is for LGBTQ in the Mendaihu Universe

It took me a bit to think about this particular entry.  I wanted to do it justice, and I definitely didn’t want to make it sound like I was saying Hey, I have [certain kind of person] in my books!  Ain’t I progressive?  Where’s my gold star?

I try to give my characters some kind of depth when I’m creating them.  Some of them pan out, some of them don’t*, but most of the time I’d like to think I give them some kind of unique personality.  Someone I’d run into on a random day, have a conversation with, get to know as a coworker, and so on.  I’m fascinated by the quirks and habits of people, their strengths and their weaknesses, and how they use those bits of their personality throughout their life.

I didn’t set out to include any token characters when I started writing A Division of Souls.  In fact, I was doing my best NOT to do that.  Almost from the beginning my game plan was “Nah, that’s a trope/stereotype, it’s an easy out.  How do I take that one extra step to make it different?”  It’s kind of funny, really; each time I did try to write a stereotypical character, I completely failed at it.  I’d get a ways down the road in the story and get completely bored by this flat-minded idiot I’d created.  It’s the nonconformist in me, I guess…heh.

Anyway, when it came time to write the Bridgetown Trilogy, I wanted to create the most realistic characters I could, so I decided to pick up on various personality traits of people around me.  I was working at the candle warehouse by the time I started A Division of Souls, and it was quite the large warehouse, so I met and worked with a LOT of people of different stripes.  No character is based on a specific person from that time; it was just various traits I borrowed from quite a few people.

Did I plan on Caren and Sheila having a short romantic relationship?  I don’t believe I did…it was just a background thing that I’d come up with when I wrote the Questioning Room scenes in ADoS.  Caren was there to calm her friend down, and I knew they had a long and very close friendship, but it wasn’t until I wrote that scene that it just seemed right; it felt right to have them be very close physically and emotionally just then.  I thought about it for a few moments: what were their sexual preferences?  Sheila’s loud and free-spirited, and would probably be open-minded on that subject, so I felt she should at least be bisexual.  As for Caren…she’s more tense, more reserved, but she’s also quite open and honest with her emotions, so she might not have been truly bi, maybe just curious.  They never show any romantic feelings towards each other in public, but the reader can tell there’s still a deep connection there, even after the relationship is over.

As for Saone and Kryssyna…that was a little more deliberate.  I wanted Saone to be someone who did not fit in at all.  She’s intelligent, but not as smart as her sisters.  She’s Shenaihu, but she doesn’t measure up to her father’s high expectations.  She’s resourceful, but no one bothers to ask her for help.  She has all this great potential, but it seems everyone she’s supposed to impress won’t give her the time of day.  The only person who sees her for who she really is, is Kryssyna.  But why?  Because Kryss is honest, both with herself and with others.  She’s an ARU agent who has no time for judging others by their status.  She sees past Saone’s rank and place, and sees that potential.  This relationship, then, was going to be less about any sexual attraction than it was a personal one.  Kryss loves Saone for her drive and determination, especially when it’s to do the right thing.  And Saone loves Kryss because she’s always there to take care of her; she inspires her to keep going.  I knew then that was going to be a very strong, very long-lasting relationship.

I have no idea how other writers decide how to build their characters, to tell the truth.  I just know how I do it to my satisfaction.  There are a few other LGBTQ characters in the Trilogy, because it just made sense to put them there.  I won’t set out to write a specific type most of the time, I’ll just choose one at random and roll with it.  I’ll admit there is a bit of self-conscious selection: I may deliberately want to have a character be gay or lesbian, but I’m not going to shoehorn that trait in if it’s not true to the character.  Nearly all the characters in the Bridgetown Trilogy came to me at the inception of the scene, really.  I just choose to keep a very long and extremely varied list of possible traits to choose from and go with what seems to fit.  And that seems to work out just fine.


* – My trunked novel Love Like Blood was a good example of flat characters.  I had some neat ideas in that story, but it was my attempt at completely commercial fiction.  Most of the characters ended up all flash and no depth.  It was definitely not one of my best works.

#atozchallenge: N is for Nick Slater & Sheila Kennedy – Team Two

Q: Why a Team Two?  What’s their origin?

A: When I came up with the Alien Relations Unit, I already had a plan that they would work very much like an extended family of sorts, very much like how a police station or a fire house would.  I saw them as similar to the units from animes such as Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell (Chief Inspector Dylan Farraway was based on Chief Aramaki early on before I decided to make him a bit younger), and Bubblegum Crisis.

I also wanted a few characters who were involved in the story, but not as deeply as Caren and Alec.  They would be a part of any investigations, they would react to situations very much the same way, but they were able to give everyone else a clearer point of view, thanks to their distance.

Q: Are they based on anyone in particular?

A: Not really; I really wanted to give them unique personalities separate from most of the other characters in the trilogy.  Sheila is that one person in your circle of friends who’s loud and boisterous and fun and most likely the first to get into a scrap; Nick is the outsider who’s just recently joined the group and is still trying to figure out how to fit in.  Both last names are Tuckerizations of 90s memories of mine: Kennedy is the former MTV veejay, and Slater is Christian Slater.

Q: What’s their background?

A: Sheila is from quite a large family, of which she’s the second youngest; her parents were also ARU agents (they knew Caren’s parents well), her older siblings (two brothers, three sisters) are agents either in the police or fire forces.  Her little sister is training to be part of the Governor’s Special Forces Unit.  She’s extremely proud of her family’s dedication to the city and is glad to be a part of it.  She joined the Branden Hill ARU the same year that Caren did; they met during training and hit it off quickly.  She and Caren had a brief and slightly awkward romantic relationship before they broke it off for professional reasons.  They’re both still great friends.

Nick is an only child, and his parents live just south of Bridgetown at an outpost not that far from the outer B-Town hamlets across the Sachers River.  He chose to become a cadet for the B-Town Metro Police and was assigned a position in South City Sector.  He stayed there for about five years before requesting a transfer to the Branden Hill ARU.  The reason for the change in unit is unknown at this time; he never revealed it to anyone, other than stating that he wanted to work closer with the Mendaihu.  [Sheila seems to think it’s because he worked with them so often in South City that he’s created a tight connection.]

Q: Are either of them Mendaihu?

A: Sheila professes not to be, though she has very strong innerspeak and soulsensing abilities and could very easily be initiated if she so chose.  She does not want to, however.  She’s fine enough with being the ARU agent that she is.

Nick grew up with no psionic abilities whatsoever, and he doubts he’ll ever acquire them.  To make up for his shortcomings, he’s trained himself to be an incredibly resourceful and quick-thinking profiler for the Unit.

Q: Anything else?

A: Sheila is fiercely loyal to her coworkers, friends and family.  She always speaks her mind, and more than a few times she’s gotten written up by her superiors for her actions.  Despite that, she’s still highly respected by them.  She likes a physical connection, so will always be touching someone on the arm when talking to them.  She loves to listen to music and always has something playing in the background, even if it’s a contraband radio in the patrol car she’s driving.  She works out a few times a week and has a devastating right hook.

Nick is the only person who smokes as much as Alec does.  He’s also a coffee fiend.  He’s a few inches shorter than Sheila and she likes to tease him about that, as well as him being a Wilderlander (i.e., someone who grew up in the sticks).  He looks up to Caren and Alec as mentors, even if he never comments on it, and he always appreciates their help and direction.  He’s friendly with almost everyone he meets, but he’s also got a surprisingly short temper and a low tolerance for bullshit.  He tends to play the straight man to Sheila’s wildness, sometimes to comedic effect.