From Ingenue to Badass: A Heroine’s Journey

Barron's Last Stand ART5I caught some flak from a handful of SOVRAN’S PAWN readers about my heroine being too weak. I had the unenviable task of deconstructing her from the kick-ass warrior woman of BARRON’S LAST STAND into the ingénue she was when her story started. Those readers may not realize that THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES is as much about Bo’s evolution from naïve, sheltered young princess to bitter, disillusioned warrior queen as it is about clearing her name.

Good fiction is about change and the growth of the main character. Bo had to start out young and uncertain in order to make her growth into “The Scourge of the Seventh Sector” that much more poignant. THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES is a character driven story, and in character-driven stories, your main character must go through profound changes to find the truth of who he or she really is. When you’re talking a story arc over several books, the changes may not occur quickly enough to suit some readers, but they need to unfold organically or the story will fall flat.

Audrey-roman-holiday-scooterIn SOVRAN’S PAWN, Bo is barely twenty years-old. I was inspired by ROMAN HOLIDAY with Audrey Hepburn. It’s a similar principle. Here is a young, privileged woman who finds herself outside her comfort zone and away from the trappings of her title. Despite her training, she’s been insulated from interacting with ordinary people and is at a loss for how to deal with them. For the first time in her life, she is making her own decisions and responsible for no one but herself. In the process, she is learning who she is and what she has to contribute to her society, and she makes mistakes.

Unlike the Hepburn character, people are trying to kill Bo, and she has military training. However, her military training is entirely theoretical, not practical. Her jaded guides on this journey are highly trained special operatives with considerable field experience who, for reasons of their own, are driven to protect her, keeping her out of trouble whenever possible. In their own way, both her Uncle Royce and Blade Devon take it on themselves to fill in the gaps in her training. By the end of SOVRAN’S PAWN, Bo is taking the first real steps towards independence, with her own ship and a romantic interest in Blade, who is a wholly unsuitable partner for her politically.

Roughly two years pass between the end of SOVRAN’S PAWN and the beginning of HERO’S END. In that intervening time, Bo has settled into a routine with a public role as Blade’s Joy Babe Companion and a private role exploring her more larcenous endeavors. In her early twenties, Bo has learned how to be light-hearted and how to have fun. As any young woman her age, she is aware of her responsibilities, but not overly burdened by them, doing the bare minimum to meet them. She prefers to party with her friends and spend time with her boyfriend, the exciting and dangerous Blade Devon, much to the disapproving censure of her uncle. Bo still has some growing up to do. She isn’t always likeable. She isn’t always sympathetic.

HERO’S END is different from SOVRAN’S PAWN in that the plot is exceedingly more complex with more point of view characters and more plot threads woven through it. Where the theme of SOVRAN’S PAWN had more to do with false identities, HERO’S END is about the nature of faith, and not necessarily the religious kind. It’s about optimism and trust versus cynicism and doubt.

Still somewhat of an ingénue from being sheltered and protected by Blade, her uncle, and her brother, Bo has a naïveté about her relationships with the people around her. Over the course of HERO’S END, both Bo’s and Blade’s faith are tested. Bo loses her innocent faith while Blade gains a new faith. Bo embarks on the hero’s journey, gaining the streetwise confidence she’ll need. Blade, on the other hand, must resolve the dichotomy between the lying, ruthless, borderline sociopathic behavior he’s been guilty of, and the paladin hero he plays in holofeatures.

By the time BARRON’S LAST STAND begins, seven years has elapsed from the date of Bo’s trial and escape. She has seen too much and done too much. Her innocence is long gone. Her only faith lies in her own abilities. Tough, dangerous, and street-wise, Bo is no longer the weak ingénue waiting for rescue. She will rescue herself, thank-you-very-much.

Blade, on the other hand, has spent the intervening years doing penance, trying to redeem himself as the real-life version of the hero he played in holofeatures. Their roles reverse and he is the one who ends up being rescued by her more than once.

By the climax of BARRON’S LAST STAND, Bo Barron will be a heroine of epic proportions. She will have been tested and tempered by fire and hardship. THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES are the story of how a young, naïve princess, accused of treason, earns the right to command the precision combat wing whose loyalty and service can tip the balance of power in the Commonwealth from one house to another.

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How Old Is Too Old For An Idea?

If you follow me, you know I’m devoted to participating in Science Fiction/Fantasy Saturday. This past weekend, I included a snippet from a book I started writing twenty-five years ago. One of the authors who commented on the snippet pointed out that he wouldn’t develop an idea that was twenty-five years-old. I have to say the comment got in my head and won’t leave me alone.

How old is too old for an idea?

I have many completed novels that for one reason or another never got published. I think cyberpunk was all the rage at the time. One is a romantic thriller, contemporary in the early 90’s, and very reliant on the prevalent technology of the time:  pay phones, floppy disks, slow modems, fax machines, 35mm photography negatives, and that’s just off the top of my head. Drawn from my experiences writing for the Tampa Tribune newspaper at the time, the story itself is pretty good. It’s paced well. The characters are well developed. I could publish today… except for the fact that the dated technology is integral to the plot. Perhaps I’ll publish it at some point as a period piece.

My  point is, that it’s an idea I wouldn’t make a priority out of developing due to its dated content. But the science fiction romance I posted on Saturday is another story entirely. Drawing inspiration from Terminator, Flash Gordon, and Total Recall, it was an idea I’d toyed with, off and on, since 1987 before it got archived with The Black Wing Chronicles in 2002. For that matter, I first conceived of The Black Wing Chronicles in 1980. Sovran’s Pawn only published this year. That’s a thirty-two year-old concept that got developed.

If a story is compelling and interesting to the writer, shouldn’t it see the light of day? A good premise is timeless and resonates. Sure, Star Wars was exactly what sf fans everywhere needed at the time. Most sf of the period had become painfully socially conscious, with accusatory messages of total annihilation and the inherent evil of humankind. Star Wars was a breath of fresh air — a lighthearted adventure. It was the Hero’s Journey. Would it be successful if released for the first time today? If you take into account how very groundbreaking it was in special effects technology, I believe it would be. No one had seen anything quite like it. Star Wars made science fiction fun again, taking it out of the hands of the ivory tower bunch and putting back into the hands of adventurers, pirates, cowboys and damsels in distress. Would it be a blockbuster? I don’t know, but if the cult success of Joss Whedon’s Firefly can be used as a measure, Star Wars would find a devoted audience.

How old is too old for an idea?

I suppose that for every writer, that’s a personal decision. For myself, I believe that good ideas are timeless. As far as The Lost Domina is concerned, I’ll let YOU decide. Here is the blurb. Tell me what you think.

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Riding high on the sale of her first novel, science fiction author Analise Trujold tries to rescue her failing marriage with a trip to the countryside with her husband to watch a meteor shower. A close encounter with an alien hit squad who murders her husband, and the sudden appearance of Admiral Faran Hagon, the hero in her novel, ensnare Analise in a hotbed of interstellar intrigue. Characters from her book are more real than she ever could have believed and her mundane life on Earth has been nothing more than implanted memories to keep her safe during her exile.

The Universal Congolmeration of Systems is under attack from within.  As the Lost Domina, Ana is the only one who can hold it together. But with her memories suspect, she’s not sure who she can trust. Even though she’s drawn to Faran, she can’t help but wonder if he isn’t somehow angling to rule in her stead. If she hopes to survive, Ana must rely on her wits and creativity to uncover the truth behind the fiction.