Salvation’s Dawn (Eve of Redemption) (Volume 1)
Once in awhile you read a book that moves you, that you get lost in and that you never want to end. Recently I read a book just like that. If you like fantasy, character driven novels, or strong female lead characters, then you will love this novel. Please visit Goodreads to see my full review.
Karian Vanador, Shield of the Heavens, by Zalkar’s grace
Today I want to focus on just one character, Kari. I will dissect and discuss this character and see what the author did that worked or didn’t work with this character and discuss how we could use some of his techniques in creating our own characters. I also have the privilege of being able to interview Joe Jackson as well! You will get to see some interesting answers to my questions at the end of the discussion as well. There is so much to discuss, so let’s get going!
A little about Kari, she is a female warrior set in a fantasy world. She is a female warrior among mostly male warriors. Initially I was dubious of a guy writing a female warrior character. He blew all my stereotypes out of the water. He wrote a believable, feminine warrior
Character Techniques that Worked in this Novel
First, he described Kari’s appearance bit by bit as the story went along. He did not dedicate a paragraph to her description, instead he would add one aspect of her physical appearance as it was pertinent to the story. The reader slowly developed a picture of Kari in their mind as the story begins to unfold. This added mystery and some suspense to the first few chapters. This worked well for Kari and the novel.
He used my favorite technique in making a strong, yet feminine character—he wasn’t afraid to take her to a low point and let her feel some raw emotions then bring her back stronger than before. This showed her strength was more than just physical, but mental as well. It takes true strength of character to go into the depths of a personal hell, sit with the raw emotions and return a stronger person. The author did just that with Kari. I discussed this technique in an earlier post.
Joe also chose to include in her history that she had been abused, physically and sexually, by her father. He used this to explain why she had run away at such an early age and why she was so aloof with strangers. The author uses this history not as baggage or as an excuse for any outbursts or why she hasn’t achieved enough, but as something that makes her stronger. Kari is clearly a stronger, more driven person because of her past abuse and Joe is careful to demonstrate this. I like how he turned something negative into a strength. Even though Kari is not a human, but a terra-dracon, she is still an inspiration to any woman who has ever been abused.
I’d like to introduce Joe Jackson. This is his debut novel, but he is not new to writing as he has been writing fan fiction for many years. He has a 14 book series planned for us, and I’m so excited that we found him at the beginning. Let’s dive right in.
CD: First, tell us about how you developed your world? It is so rich with detail and I get the impression that you are only cherry picking the details to share with us.
JJ: I started writing SciFi short stories in fifth grade after seeing the movie Aliens in the theater (I’m dating myself there). In 1992, a friend’s uncle introduced us to Dungeons & Dragons, and I quickly fell in love with Fantasy settings. I really only had a handful of characters and not much of the world built at that time, but while playing D&D with my friends, I started building my own world using the templates of the roleplaying game. I created my own alien races based on my old SciFi stuff, and developed their own pantheon because we just used Norse mythology when we played D&D, and I found that a bit stale, honestly. In the early 2000s, I ran a D&D campaign for my friends that lasted over two years and laid down the storyline for what will be books 8-10 of the Eve of Redemption series. So essentially, playing and writing campaigns for D&D is where the world building happened, and then it just became a matter of putting it into a book of my own instead of fan-fiction.
As far as cherry-picking details, that’s true to a degree. I can’t give away too much too quickly or the stories will lose some of their surprises. As it stands, writing the appendices without giving everything away was difficult. All in all, Eve of Redemption will take place on three different worlds, each with its own societies and structure.
CD: How or where did you come up with the idea for Kari? What was her inspiration?
JJ: Kari’s character was mainly inspired by a couple of songs, honestly. I’ve always kept mum on which songs they actually are, because it makes for a fun quiz question for readers (feel free to take a stab). But the songs touched on women who were damaged by abuse of some kind, and I decided to try roleplaying such a character in one of our D&D campaigns. It was a really interesting exercise, because while some of the other characters chose to hit on her, as their male characters usually did to anything female, and others just avoided her outright, there were a few that recognized there was something broken in her, and chose to become brotherly toward her. Some of that was worked into the characters of the Tesconis siblings.
CD: In general, how do you create characters? What is the process you use to get to know your characters better?
JJ: Single-person RPGs or MMORPGs help a lot. I’ll make a prospective character in a game and start to imagine how they react to things like the village idiot, someone asking for help who can’t provide a reward, etc. In my mind, I imagine what their living conditions and education were like when they were younger, and that molds the way they speak. The big thing, of course, is figuring out what they want out of life. At the end of Salvation’s Dawn, the reader should be able to at least guess at what each of the major characters wants out of life, even if that changes over the course of the book. If I’ve done that, and I’ve differentiated them in terms of speech, goals, morals, and personality, then I’m satisfied with what I’ve created as a character.
CD: Was Kari created as she is now, or did she evolve and grow over time?
JJ: Kari was even more defensive and had a much more forceful personality originally. I wrote her into a fan-fiction that allowed me to explore her character a lot more, and the “hard-headed warrior bitch” seemed both cliche and out of place. She’s always had a heart of gold, so I chose to let that shine through a lot more and made her background make her more withdrawn rather than forceful.
CD: I like how Kari opened up slowly over the course of book number 1, even to the narrator. Where did you get that idea from, to have her guarded initially even with the narrator?
JJ: Salvation’s Dawn was written in third-person omniscient viewpoint in its first few drafts. After a while, I decided to go through and change it so it’s written from Kari’s point of view except for those chapters where Aeligos takes center stage. I felt like this let me do a lot more showing and less telling, and express her doubts and uncertainty when she shares her feelings with others. It’s important for the reader to see her the way the others do; I wanted readers to fall in love with her because they got to know her slowly and deeply, and not because she was a heroic general right from the start.
CD: Kari is such a complex character and has such depth of character. No offense, but I’m always a little weary of men writing female warrior characters. You blew my stereotype completely out of the water. She is a feminine fighter, not just a male warrior in a female body. Her personality has such complexities and she is feminine and strong. How did you accomplish all the complexity in Kari?
JJ: That’s an understandable stereotype to have. I think a lot of it had to do with the way people I played RPGs with treated female characters (or, even worse, female players). It took a lot of study to see the way actual women responded to things both within the games and without, and model a character that reacted in much the same way. I also looked at Kari as an exceptional woman in a profession (demonhunter) that is dominated by men, and molded her personality to have taken that into account as well. Last but not least, I have also known several close friends in my life who were abused in some way, and tried to take account of their strengths and weaknesses where their past is concerned. Thankfully, several of my test readers are women, so when they told me she was a believable female character, I figured I’d done well.
CD: One thing that I think will resonate with a lot of women, is how she was abused, even sexually abused, as a child, but she did not let that define her. She chose to use that as a growth opportunity. I also like how you dealt with her reliving those memories as an adult. Just having the courage to address that is amazing in itself, but you handled it well and respectful. I think Kari is a role model for anyone who has been abused, how they can make something so horrible into something positive. Was that your intention from the beginning, or did the story evolve that way?
JJ: That was part of the intention of Kari’s character. More of her background will be revealed in subsequent books, gradually showing how she gained the strength to escape her past, but it’s still always going to be a part of her. It’s not something you really ever forget, but you can learn to draw strength from it or, at the least, recognize that you became something despite what happened to you. Essentially, coming to know that God can make use of you no matter your past; and in subsequent books, Kari’s relationship with her own deity – past and present – will be explored.
CD: Last but not least….Are you a plotter or pantser? I find this so fascinating!
JJ: I tend to be a pantser, but because of the complexity of this series, I’ve taken to plotting everything. I tried pants’ing Book 2 and what I ended up with a rather childish story that revealed all the secrets and magic of the series plotline too quickly. I trashed it, and sat down and outlined the series as a whole, and then Book 2 individually, and what readers will get next should knock their socks off. “White Serpent, Black Dragon” should be out before Christmas, if all goes according to plan (translation: if I get another spiffy book cover for it).
You’ve got to spend a lot of time with your characters if you want them to be three dimensional and feel real. I also noted how he changed the POV from omniscient to limited third person. I think he made the right choice, what do you think?
This was an extra post this week. I’m thinking of beginning to post twice a week, as I find great books like this one. What are your thoughts?
You can find all my reviews on Goodreads, but I’m sharing only the best here with you. As always thanks for reading.
May your muse be with you.
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