Where do they all come from?

You’ve probably seen this image before, but doesn’t Harris make a handsome wolf?

Most, if not all, the characters in the DaSilva-verse arrived unannounced. I knew from his first appearance that the Captain was married, but not that his wife’s name was Emilia. She made herself known in the second short story, as did Father Pereira. It’s difficult to explain just how this happens. Because I don’t plan what I write, other than knowing more or less how I want the story to end, characters tend to pop up when they are needed.

I didn’t know, for instance, that when John Yeoh first appeared in Demon Weather, what he could do and why. I didn’t know that the ghost Isaac Zacuto was going to play such an important part, or how the witch Paciência’s daughter Luzia would grow. I certainly had no idea that Teresa Batista would do what she ended up doing. There’s more to everyone’s story than I’ve either written down or yet discovered. I find out about my characters mainly by writing them, but sometimes a fact pops into my head at other times. If I need a good think about something, I go for a run.

Most of the advice that is given to authors doesn’t really work for the way I write. I can’t for the life of me sit down and plan a chapter, let alone an entire book. (Writing a synopsis is the task from hell.) “Write about what you know” is a rubbish piece of advice, not to say a lazy one. If every author adhered to that one, there’d be no fantasy or science fiction.

Raymond Chandler once said that if the action flagged a bit, he’d make a man enter with a gun. I’ve been known to introduce a demon for the same reason. A lot of my demons come from Collin de Plancy’s 1863 Dictionnaire Infernal, but I put my own spin on them. That’s the trick with using supernatural nasties, unless they’re completely original: take your basic vampire or zombie, and give it a twist.

There’s nothing particularly original about Harris the werewolf (at least not in the first novel)— good wereguys have been around for some time, and Oz in Buffy was a member of the Scooby Gang— but John Yeoh is, I believe, an entirely original kind of supernatural. Zacuto is a ghost, but a very useful one. When it comes to vampires, in the third novel, I’ve made my own vamp lore by the pick’n’mix method.

For me, writing fiction is fun. I lost that for some years before the Captain saved me from the dreadful affliction that is writer’s block. The feeling of sitting in front of a screen with words coming out like sludge rather than quicksilver, is profoundly horrible. Fingers crossed, though, the muse is now here to stay.


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