Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for the Reviews By Molly website.
Heroes and Villains
My main characters are teens, but Væmpires isn’t a YA world. The obstacles these teens face are decidedly adult and decidedly deadly. They are thrust into a war they didn’t choose, with the fate of the world lying in the balance.
In many ways, I care more about my characters than I do about anything else in Væmpires. The post-apocalyptic world my characters inhabit, the war they are forced to fight, the events that have passed, and even the events about to occur, pale in comparison to my connections to Cassandra, Daniel, Linq, and Ray. Even Vielyn.
But before I delve into the hows and whys, perhaps I should begin by offering the uninitiated a brief overview of Væmpires.
The backstory: In the future, humans trigger a nuclear winter that lasts for hundreds of years. Water levels rise. The shape of the world changes. When the world recovers, vampires emerge from the darkness. Their discovery leads to a war for supremacy … until synthetic human blood is created, ushering in a period of peace and prosperity.
And the world changes yet again. Vampires begin morphing into væmpires, warm-blooded creatures with an insatiable hunger for cold vampire blood. There is no rhyme or reason as to who morphs—male or female, old or young, from one end of the world to another—no vampire is safe. And no human is safe, either, because these væmpires aren’t interested in coexistence. They want three things: the eradication of humanity, the enslavement of vampires, and their ascension as the dominant species on the planet.
Væmpires: White Christmas: It’s almost Christmas. With the global holiday days away, the people of the world should be turning their attention toward celebrating peace and goodwill, but tension between humans, vampires, and væmpires is at an all-time high. Desperate for solutions, King Brant schedules a secret summit deep in North America’s Northern Forest. Along with Queen Anne, Princess Cassandra, Daniel’s family, and the human president and First Lady, the vampire leader seeks to reaffirm the ties between humans and vampires, while brainstorming ways to respond to the growing hostility among væmpires.
Meanwhile, Daniel and Cassie’s relationship is at an all-time low. The princess is still reeling from her breakup with Vielyn, and Daniel doesn’t know what he should or shouldn’t do to help. Little does he know that the summit will be flooded with surprises—guests, allegations, accusations, proposals, and even Christmas Eve revelations—but not all of the surprises will be pleasant.
Væmpires: Revolution: (Six months after White Christmas) It is the morning of Princess Cassandra’s sixteenth birthday. Everyone’s attention is focused on the heir to the vampire throne. World leaders, the rich and famous, and VIPs from every corner of the globe have gathered in the nation’s capital to celebrate the momentous event.
Cassandra’s boyfriend, Daniel, is late for the party. He’s still outside the city when all hell breaks loose. What he believes is an act of terrorism proves to be a full-fledged revolution. Væmpires have launched coordinated attacks across the globe.
The vampire and human leaders are killed. Cassandra is missing. Daniel is the acting king. Desperate to find the princess, Daniel and his friends fight their way across the besieged city. With the hopes of the free world resting on the shoulders of four vampire teenagers, væmpires unleash their secret weapons: a new breed of væmpire that is far deadlier than any ever seen before.
What can four teens do against an enemy that can shape-shift, fly, and walk through walls?
There you have it: the Væmpires saga in a nutshell. And if you’re anything like me, you’re already rooting for our four heroes to overcome the odds and save the day.
I’ve always been a sucker for the hero/heroine, as well as the underdog (which is not to be confused with Underdog, the 1960’s cartoon superhero who always had to save Sweet Polly Purebred—who I loved, but wouldn’t say I was a sucker for—or Underdog, the 2007 film that I did not see because it was labeled a “sucker.”)
When it comes to a heroic character, I don’t need perfection. He/she needn’t be a paragon of virtue. A little dirt here and there, even a bruise or three, is fine. Picture Han Solo and we’re on the same wavelength.
However, what that character must possess—in unwavering abundance—is strength of character (no pun intended).
You see; it isn’t enough for a character to succeed or win or persevere or overcome obstacles or otherwise save the day. He/she must also do so with grace, dignity, and integrity … otherwise it isn’t heroic.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a major accomplishment, just not a heroic accomplishment.
Being heroic isn’t about what a character does, as much as it is about how the character does it. It’s also not whether an individual does the right thing when the stakes are high and all eyes are on him/her or not—but whether that individual does the right thing, consistently, when no one else will ever know.
Developing the characters in Væmpires: Revolution wasn’t easy. Heck, I never find developing any characters easy, but those characters were particularly challenging. Let’s take a look at the major characters in the novel: Cassandra, Daniel, and Vielyn.
There were certainly some similarities in the challenge of making all three of those characters simultaneously believable as the teenagers they are and the leaders they’re forced to be. But then each character posed unique challenges.
Cassandra was the hardest. First of all, I’m a male writing about a female character, so I’m at a decided disadvantage there—just because I think I can accurately capture how a teenage vampire princess thinks and acts and feels doesn’t mean I can. Additionally, Cassie is a heroine. Today’s YA readers are quite familiar with strong female characters in fiction, but that is (sadly) a relatively recent trend. I grew up on books with predominately male heroes, so my thought processes still lean in that direction. For instance, when Cassie was captured, I found I was trying to figure out how Daniel was going to rescue her … and then I realized that Cassie didn’t need to be rescued. She was perfectly capable of freeing herself.
Then there were the myriad other factors to, well, factor in: the attack occurs on the day of her sweet sixteen birthday celebration; her parents are killed; she’s now the leader of her people and the world; she doesn’t know if Daniel is alive or dead; she’s taken prisoner by Vielyn.
It’s a lot to juggle, and I’m just the writer! I struggled to walk the line between caring too much (and potentially cheating Cassie out of “her” experiences) and denying my own desire to protect her by remaining too distant (thereby inflicting too much upon her).
Now, although Daniel loses his parents, as well, I didn’t struggle with that part of his character. My struggle was in balancing his portrayal as a cold, calculating warrior who’s also serving as the acting king, and the love struck teen that wants to push everything aside and locate his girlfriend.
The novel is so action-packed that I had to keep reigning in the desire to allow (and the fun in allowing) Daniel to run amok, killing every væmpire in sight. It spoke to the testosterone-driven part of me that finds such stuff so appealing … but that’s not who Daniel is. He’s a teenager, who happens to be a more-than-capable fighter, thrust into a war zone.
Which brings us to Vielyn. I shudder, not because Vielyn is bad (and he’s quite bad!), but because I enjoyed developing his character so much that it was sometimes frightening.
In fact, it was too easy to make Vielyn bad, which wasn’t good. We all know that the best bad guys are the ones who are bad enough to fear and hate, while still giving readers reasons to wonder if the villain is all bad.
Because, despite all the murder and mayhem, when Vielyn describes what he endured in becoming a væmpire, even I began feeling sorry for him.
And then he’d do something evil and I’d hate him again.
Ultimately, here’s my confession: I get pulled into the story as much as (I hope) readers do!
My heart breaks when Cassie finds her parents. I get all misty when … well … I won’t give it away. And I cry at the end. Sometimes a lot. The Neanderthal man inside me hates it, but I won’t lie—I cried when I wrote it and I cry whenever I read it.
Here’s another confession: what happens at the end was as much a surprise and shock to me as it is to everyone else!