This week's Continuing Characters feature has a bit of a different format. This week, we include two continuing characters and hear both sides of the topic.
Continuing Characters: A series of interviews featuring continuing characters and the authors who know them best.
Firedancer, S. A. Bolich's first novel, is available now from Sky Warrior Books. Book 2 in the series, Windrider, is due out in April 2012. The release date of Seaborn, the third book in the series, is to be announced.
At twenty-six Jetta ak'Kal was the youngest Third Rank master in all the Fire Clans, brash, confident, supremely skilled in the elegant Firedance that binds the greatest threat to her people--the Ancient, the elemental fire at the heart of the world. She and her lifemate Kori kept their assigned village fire-free for five full years, a thing unheard-of. But one night the Ancient rose in Setham and defied the Firedance, destroying the village--and Kori. A year later, still grieving and no longer confident, she is both insulted and secretly relieved to be assigned to a remote mountain village where the black containment stone that is the only other safeguard against fire is mined. Annam should be safe; the Ancient has never risen there. But the Delvers are curiously naive, and not all of them welcome the presence of a failed Firedancer and her partner Settak, the most erratic journeyman in all the clans. When fire begins to assault the village, Jetta and Settak are thrown straight into the middle of a battle not only against fire, but with the Dance itself. And to top it all, Annam is full of Windriders, masters of air, who control the very thing the Ancient wants most. The wave of a Rider's hand could bring disaster down on them all--especially if what Jetta secretly suspects is true. The Ancient has always been an opportunist; now she fears it has begun to think. If they cannot discover a way to keep the white fire from escaping into Annam Vale, nowhere will be safe from the ensuing firestorm.
"We're naked on the floor, and it's cold. Yes, we are a fine pair of fools." --from Windrider
Sheshan of Clan Heshth, Third Rank ak'Kal (master) of Wind, survived the great disaster that overtook his clan during a great storm by the sea. While the masters fought to keep the raging winds from scouring the coast clean, a great wave flung itself into the cave and drowned his lifemate and all but a handful of his kin. The grieving remnant fled far from the smell of the sea to the clean winds of Annam Vale, where for three years they have kept the high passes open for the kindly Delvers who accepted them without question. It is a great gift to a people whose nomadic existence make them forever the outsiders among the people who hire them to turn Wind's capricious hands away from their homes and crops. And something rare and wonderful has come to pass in Annam. After a summer of terror and fire, Sheshan's frozen heart has thawed to an impossible touch. Happily he defies the gloomy Delver tradition that autumn weddings are unlucky and reaches for new love as the leaves turn. He even shyly hopes that the Rider's song born in him and lost to the great storm that killed his clan will return--but the Hag, gentle Wind's malicious sister, has other ideas. Like her brother the Ancient, she is rampaging across the plains, and every Rider is needed to discover what has set these two against their mother Earth. Angrily Sheshan answers the call to duty, but a close encounter with the Hag leaves him more desperately aware than ever that a Rider stripped of his song is oh, so very vulnerable indeed...
"Wind is a woman, fickle and fey, now here, now there, gentle as a caress, as unbending as a shrew."
"Thank you," Jetta said dryly. "No wonder Windriders are so few." --from Firedancer
Questions for Jetta & Sheshan
Q. Jetta, you were the main point of view character in Firedancer, the first book in a series. In the sequel, however, Sheshan takes over the lead role. How did that make you feel?
Jetta: Frankly, after the summer I just had I'm tired of looking at, worrying about, and dancing fire. It feels pretty good, actually, to not be the one in charge trying to prop up everyone's morale. But Father Flame, I sure never knew what it was like to live a Windrider's life. Seeing through Sheshan's eyes is giving me a whole new perspective on things I thought I knew--and a lot of it is making me angry! But not as angry as Sheshan, and that worries me. He's always so calm, so gentle, and now this thing with the Hag... I'm a bit scared, actually.
Q. Sheshan, what do you see as the pros and cons of your new position as a main point of view character?
Sheshan: Well, it's good that people might understand what it's really like to be a Windrider. I mean, it's not all just weaving wind and singing, you know. I love dealing with Wind, but her sister the Hag? What a-- Sorry. I suppose it won't make it any easier to learn the songs of a storm like the Hag if I insult her. She just makes me so mad! I want to be with Jetta and enjoy what we earned together in peace, but it looks like that's not going to happen. The Hag is on a rampage everywhere. I'm not overjoyed to be back on the road dealing with all the things I had forgotten about for the past few years--and honestly, having people peering into my head while I do it is uncomfortable. I'm a really private person, you see. It makes me quite angry, in fact...
Q. Jetta, if you were to answer honestly, would you say Sheshan is fulfilling his role as well as you have?
Jetta: Oh, yes. I certainly can't do anything about a storm trying to flatten a whole town. It's beautiful and thrilling and really, really frightening, what Windriders can do. But, em, I am seeing sides of him I didn't know existed. I know something has upset him quite badly, but I wish he'd just tell me what it is. I mean, I know that deep down Sheshan wants to help all these people. He has to. This thing with the Hag? He's just going to have to get over it. And soon...
Jetta was actually the first female heroine I used for a full-length novel, so it was interesting. It's easier to write guys because it's easier not to end up smearing yourself all over them. You need to inject a certain amount of your own personality into each character to really understand where they're coming from, but it can hit too close to home sometimes. So Jetta was actually a nice challenge for me in learning to hold a balance. And I like her attitude a lot. She's blunt and undiplomatic and refuses to quit or accept defeat. Finding the way to turn that key in her after she's been so terribly hurt and had her confidence shaken was a big part of the book.
And Sheshan... wow, he turned out way more interesting than I thought he would. In Firedancer he is the voice of calm, absorbing Jetta's storms and rarely getting angry himself. So I was really sweating going into the writing of Windrider wondering how I could make this guy complicated enough to carry a whole book. Well, that took care of itself in Chapter 3 and suddenly I had this whole complex person with baggage I never suspected and abilities I never knew and problems I hadn't imagined. It was an unexpected writing challenge to try and evolve this wonderful, gentle guy through this series of changes and emotional storms without losing the qualities about him that I liked best, or leaving the reader going "no way" and hating what they're reading. And, it was fun, seeing Jetta from someone else's perspective, and the same with Sheshan. From observing him, we're suddenly inside him, and vice versa with Jetta.
Of course, the best part of looking out through different eyes is that the reader and I both get to experience what it is like to be a Firedancer or a Windrider. I couldn't show the reader what it "feels" like to weave wind and call the storm, or to dance fire and understand a Dancer's perspective, if I didn't switch POVs from book to book. The sensory detail for each changes, and I really want the reader to be inside that skin.
Yes, in order to maintain the "insider" look at how each of the talented clans confront their elemental (Fire, Wind, Water, or Earth), I need to step inside a new POV character each time. I have not yet decided how I'm going to do that while continuing the story with the same basic group of characters I have now. I have some ideas. I think I may end up with an alternating POV, because I really want to use one of the existing characters and make it "his" story, but I need the Water Clan perspective to make it work as well. Another interesting writing challenge!