Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Character Interview and Excerpt from DANGER IN THE STARS


Every once in a while I like to do a character interview, just for fun, so here’s one with the hero of my new book (which is hopefully going to be released by next week!).

Conor is an enforcer for the organized crime syndicate in the Sectors, known as the Amarotu Combine. He’s the second in command for Opherra, a high level crime boss on the planet (never named) where the book takes place. No spoilers, but Conor has a LOT of secrets, which he has to avoid spilling in this interview.

I took the classic ‘Proust Questionnaire’ and adapted it for this post. If I didn’t already know Conor pretty well as a character by now, then asking myself questions about him, and his likes and dislikes, can be a good way to more fully develop him (or any character in the book) as a person. Here’s a link to a 2009 post from Kathy Weiland, on 100 questions you can ask a character: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/interviewing-your-characters/#
Another, more recent one from Writer’s Digest, on ten questions you can ask to help yourself get to understand you character more fully: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/novel-writing-10-questions-you-need-to-ask-your-characters
Tons of helpful blogs and articles out there on the topic! Just google something like “using character interviews” to find a wide range of possibilities! It's a fun way to amplify the depth of your worldbuilding and story telling.

What’s your greatest fear? People knowing too much about me.
What’s the trait you not deplore in yourself? Well right now it’s not working too well to have this insane desire to protect Miriell, the empath my boss brought in to help solve a problem.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Cruelty.
On what occasion do you lie? When do I not lie, in this job?
What do you dislike most about your appearance? Opherra prefers her closest associates to be dressed to the nines all the time and I get tired of wearing a suit. I’m more of a t shirt and utilities guy.  But she’s a lady with expensive tastes and wants us to reflect her own consequence and wealth.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life? Miriell, pretty much from the first moment I laid eyes on her, curled up in an illegal cryo sleep pod, smuggled onto the planet.
When and where were you happiest? I snuck Miriell into a garden, in the moonlight, and watching her there, so happy she sang, was worth all the risk.
What talent would you most like to have? I’d like to be as all powerful as the Mellureans, this ancient race allied with the Sectors – they have astonishing mental powers and the ability to turn any situation to their favor.
What is your current state of mind? Distracted by Miriell, worried about her, wondering what has my boss looking like the cat who ate the canary…take your pick. But it’s never a good thing when Opherra is too pleased with herself. That usually means innocent people suffer and die.
What’s your most marked characteristic? I’m efficient and I stay calm in a crisis. I get the job done.
What do you value most in your friends? I don’t have real friends in this job. No one really trusts anyone else in the Combine. If I was in some other line of work, I’d say give me friends who’ll watch my back and I’ll watch theirs. People I could trust.
Where would you like to live? Most people say the Inner Sectors but I like the frontier. Unfortunately the planet I’m stuck on is in the middle.
How would you like to die? In my bed, of old age. Not too likely! Maybe with a blaster in my hands, in the middle of a firefight, trying to save some innocent lives.

The story:
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.

Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.

The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?

VS Note: This is the story of the sister who is mentioned in passing in Star Cruise: Stowaway, my story in the award winning PETS IN SPACE anthology. The new novel is completely standalone.

The Excerpt, from the scene where Conor sneaks Miriell out of her room and into the garden:
Touching her forehead to the rough bark, she closed her eyes and hummed one of the simpler hymns. It wouldn’t do to take too much from this place, to siphon so much energy that the living things who also needed lifeforce perished. The planet’s bounty felt so smooth and strong, flowing into her from the depths via through the tree’s extensive root system.

As if he’d read her thoughts, Conor said, “We probably can’t do this field trip twice, so you’d better take what you need, however you’re doing it.”

Her protest was instantaneous, instinctive. “I can’t overtax the garden. It’s well tended but fragile, in the middle of the cold city of stone and metal.”

“Even if it’s the difference between your own life or death?”

Deciding not to answer him, she changed to a different song and added words, keeping her voice soft.
When she finished, he said, “I have no idea what the lyrics meant, but the song was beautiful. I’ll take the private concert as fair trade for bringing you here.”

“A Combine lackey who appreciates alien music?” She made her voice scornful. Sinking to the grass, she leaned her back against the tree and stared through the canopy of rustling leaves at the starry sky. None of the constellations were familiar, of course. Her world lay in some faraway portion of the galaxy.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, voice quiet in the still night air.

“Nothing happy.” She gave voice to her memories.  “As Jareck said so dismissively at the spaceport earlier today, we didn’t even know we lived on what you call a planet until the evil ones swooped down from the cold stars, killing and capturing.” She ran her hand across the grass, tiny green sparks flying as her energy renewed. “No prophecy ever uttered in the temples foresaw this fate for me, or those taken with me.”

“Who attacked you?”

“Does it matter?” Her answer was bitter, but then she thought about his kindness in bringing her here and found no reason to withhold what little she knew. “I’ve been told they’re called the Shemdylann.”
“Heard of them. Fierce enemies. Why didn’t you use your powers on them? Fight back?”

She made a sound of disgust. “Our powers are ineffective against the creatures. No effect at all. And the invaders had weapons such as we’d never imagined. Blasters against crossbows and swords.” She choked back a sob. She never spoke of these things or allowed herself to remember—why was she answering his questions? Because he was kind to me, because the sound of his voice is so calming, because his touch—

Angry at herself, she abandoned the thought. “How did you come to be Amarotu?”

There was silence, broken only by the whisper of a slight breeze through the foliage.

“I used to be an elite soldier,” he said, voice tight. “Things happened. I was dishonorably discharged after spending time in the brig. The only place I could find work after Command threw me out of the service was as a Combine enforcer. I have the right…skill set, shall we say? Then I climbed the ranks beside Opherra and became her second-in-command when she took over the operations in this area.”

Her attention was caught. Something in his words didn’t ring true to her. With her refreshed and enhanced power, she probed deep into his aura and detected the dull rusty red of a lie. The tiny blue flames flickered. What is he lying about, and why would he bother lying to me?

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