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Heroes of Shadow’s Son

April 1st, 2011

I love the heroes of my first book.

Writing about Caim, Kit, and Josey was thrilling and rewarding. I had never felt such a connection to characters before. Now they’re like members of the family. Sometimes I half expect to see Caim coming up from my basement on his way for an evening constitutional and a little mayhem.

The idea of Caim was a process. I had written the beginning of a fantasy assassin novel years and years ago, but abandoned the project after a few chapters. But the idea of the character always stuck with me.

Insider tidbit: Parts of the first scene in Shadow’s Son, when Caim assassinates Duke Reinard, was borrowed from the beginning of that abandoned project.

Years later, I got an idea for a roguish character who gets sucked into a political scheme. I tried plotting the main character as a thief, a sort of cat burglar, but I ran into some snags. Then I remembered that old project with the assassin, and the two ideas merged. That was the real birth of Shadow’s Son.

Writing Caim was a challenge for several reasons. First, Caim is a physical person. He’s not afraid to mix it up with anyone. And although I’ve been a rather physical person for most of my life, including years of martial arts study and working at a job that required “hands on” counseling with sometimes-violent inmates, my personality generally steers me away from conflicts. So I had to subdue that impulse with Caim. Whenever a situation got intense, I tried not to let myself, or him, back down.

Also, Caim has a trouble past. This is something I share with him (although not in nearly the same proportion), and there were times when tapping into that turbulence was painful. But it felt right at the same time, like I wouldn’t be doing Caim proper justice if I didn’t dig deep for those emotions.

Then there’s Kit. When I talk to people who have read the book, they always want to talk about Kit. Yeah, Caim is interesting and conflicted, but Kit is just too cool for school. And she was a blast to write. Letting her say just about anything that came to mind (and there wasn’t anything Caim could about it) was so much fun. And I really liked how she evolved into the perfect foil for Caim. Where he’s often morose and pessimistic, she’s carefree and lighter than air (literally). He wants to live life on his terms, and she’s happy to take things as they come. Oil and water on the surface, but they get along like peas and carrots. The hardest part about writing Kit was not including her as much as I wanted. Shadow’s Son could have easily turned into Kit’s Happy Adventure Time if I wasn’t careful. But the good news is that if you are one of the people who wanted more face-time with Kit, just be patient. She has all new tricks in the sequel, and I think (I hope) you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ah, Josey. The damsel in distress. According to some, a wooden stereotype who exists only to give Caim someone to rescue. Well, that’s not how I see her. While Caim is the muscles of the book, and Kit is perhaps the soul, Josey is the heart. I only had a rough idea of who she was when I started writing, but with every scene she became clearer in my imagination. By the end I knew she couldn’t be just a throw-away background player; she needed a spotlight of her own. That impression stuck with me after I’d finished the first novel and started on the second. One of the most difficult parts about writing Josey wasn’t her gender, but writing a believable seventeen-year-old without making her into a caricature. Teenagers are so often maligned and patronized in literature, I wanted Josey to ‘sound’ real. And judging by the responses I’ve gotten from actual teenage readers, I feel good about my efforts.

There’s one other hero I’d like to mention. Of all the book’s secondary characters, the one I loved the most was Mat, despite his brief appearance in the book. Mathias Finneus, the extravagant godfather of Othir’s assassination ring. Originally, Mat was the leader of a guild of assassins, and Caim was his star pupil. But as I wrote their scene the idea took hold of me that Mat was more a business partner than a boss (and assassin guilds have been done to death, let’s face it). I was sorry to see Mat go, but I only killed him because I loved him so much.

If there was a hero of the book that you particular enjoyed (or didn’t), let’s talk about him or her.

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