Friday, April 1, 2011

Heroes of Shadow's Son

I love the heroes of my first book.

Writing about Caim, Kit, and Josey was thrilling and rewarding. I had never felt such a connection to characters before. Now they’re like members of the family. Sometimes I half expect to see Caim coming up from my basement on his way for an evening constitutional and a little mayhem.

The idea of Caim was a process. I had written the beginning of a fantasy assassin novel years and years ago, but abandoned the project after a few chapters. But the idea of the character always stuck with me.

Insider tidbit: Parts of the first scene in Shadow’s Son, when Caim assassinates Duke Reinard, was borrowed from the beginning of that abandoned project.

Years later, I got an idea for a roguish character who gets sucked into a political scheme. I tried plotting the main character as a thief, a sort of cat burglar, but I ran into some snags. Then I remembered that old project with the assassin, and the two ideas merged. That was the real birth of Shadow’s Son.

Writing Caim was a challenge for several reasons. First, Caim is a physical person. He’s not afraid to mix it up with anyone. And although I’ve been a rather physical person for most of my life, including years of martial arts study and working at a job that required “hands on” counseling with sometimes-violent inmates, my personality generally steers me away from conflicts. So I had to subdue that impulse with Caim. Whenever a situation got intense, I tried not to let myself, or him, back down.

Also, Caim has a trouble past. This is something I share with him (although not in nearly the same proportion), and there were times when tapping into that turbulence was painful. But it felt right at the same time, like I wouldn’t be doing Caim proper justice if I didn’t dig deep for those emotions.

Then there’s Kit. When I talk to people who have read the book, they always want to talk about Kit. Yeah, Caim is interesting and conflicted, but Kit is just too cool for school. And she was a blast to write. Letting her say just about anything that came to mind (and there wasn’t anything Caim could about it) was so much fun. And I really liked how she evolved into the perfect foil for Caim. Where he’s often morose and pessimistic, she’s carefree and lighter than air (literally). He wants to live life on his terms, and she’s happy to take things as they come. Oil and water on the surface, but they get along like peas and carrots. The hardest part about writing Kit was not including her as much as I wanted. Shadow’s Son could have easily turned into Kit’s Happy Adventure Time if I wasn’t careful. But the good news is that if you are one of the people who wanted more face-time with Kit, just be patient. She has all new tricks in the sequel, and I think (I hope) you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ah, Josey. The damsel in distress. According to some, a wooden stereotype who exists only to give Caim someone to rescue. Well, that’s not how I see her. While Caim is the muscles of the book, and Kit is perhaps the soul, Josey is the heart. I only had a rough idea of who she was when I started writing, but with every scene she became clearer in my imagination. By the end I knew she couldn’t be just a throw-away background player; she needed a spotlight of her own. That impression stuck with me after I’d finished the first novel and started on the second. One of the most difficult parts about writing Josey wasn’t her gender, but writing a believable seventeen-year-old without making her into a caricature. Teenagers are so often maligned and patronized in literature, I wanted Josey to ‘sound’ real. And judging by the responses I’ve gotten from actual teenage readers, I feel good about my efforts.

There’s one other hero I’d like to mention. Of all the book’s secondary characters, the one I loved the most was Mat, despite his brief appearance in the book. Mathias Finneus, the extravagant godfather of Othir’s assassination ring. Originally, Mat was the leader of a guild of assassins, and Caim was his star pupil. But as I wrote their scene the idea took hold of me that Mat was more a business partner than a boss (and assassin guilds have been done to death, let’s face it). I was sorry to see Mat go, but I only killed him because I loved him so much.

If there was a hero of the book that you particular enjoyed (or didn’t), let’s talk about him or her.


Jenny said...

While I really dig Caim (I mean, really...strong and introspective...mmm. So he's an assassin. Sometimes you gotta take the good with the bad.), you know my absolute favorite character is Kit. She can do (and say)anything she wants, she can pop in and out of existence, wears cool clothes I'd never have the nerve to wear myself, and is about as sassypants as you can get. Killer! Plus, their relationship is so complicated and I love that back-and-forth they have.

Josey has really evolved for me, especially in the second book (I got a preview, lucky me!). I like her even more now, which I think is so important to tie the reader to a character.

I think "Shadow's Lure" will want the fans wishing 2012 wasn't so far away. :)

Kenny Soward said...

I'm going to check out some of your stuff as soon as I've had my Dalglish fix. Sounds like you have some interesting stuff happening.

Jon Sprunk said...

Thanks, Jen. I know you love Kit.

And thanks, Kenny. Hope you enjoy it.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Well as much as I love Kit and the mystery of her and her being. ;) I really enjoyed Caim. I like the solid troubled past there and want to know more about him. But Kit works perfectly with him and I don't know if either would work right with out that balance in the other.

And Josey. Well. She is a whole character of her own. She did have a ting of damsel in distress but not completely, at least to me. She is a strong character in a weak moment. But as the book went on she grew stronger and helped in her way. And then came into the "position" she ended in, in the end. She really had a nice growth as she showed a weakness and worked at it.

I guess I don't have to say much other than I just enjoyed the book so. :)

Thanks for this great post on the characters!

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna go out on a lark, and say that my favorite character is Ral. I was really bummed when he died. With his brief resurrection, I thought you really knew what you were doing, but then Caim killed him for good.

Of course, the reason I like him is because he is/was very much like Caim. And, no Ral isn't really my favorite character, Caim's got that honor.

I do absolutely disagree with everyone about Kit. Couldn't stand her. Was more than happy when she would disappear and leave Caim alone. And when she turned into a shadow woman and reverted back, WTF? Didn't quite understand that part.

Damn it. Gotta read the next one. ;)

Jon Sprunk said...


I'm glad you liked Caim. Maybe events in book 2 will shed some light on Kit's relationship with him. Thanks for reading.


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Aaaaa, Jon. I'm so glad to see your comment her in Kit's relationship with Caim. I think I like Kit because she is an entity all of her own from a completely different place who for some unknown reason (at this point) attached herself to Caim. There is definitely more to this pairing than we know at this point. And I'm curious as to what it is. Kit seems to hint at a little bit of something when she was talking about Caim's mom...

well, I don't want to give anything away if someone who hasn't read the book stops in. But at the end of Shadow's Son she starts to hint at something much more and bigger for Caim and her being her with him. ;)