You never know how much it’s okay to reveal when you have a book out there that you’re trying to sell, or that an agent is trying to sell for you. Or at least, I don’t know how much to reveal. So, with that in mind, I’m just gonna start revealing stuff over the next couple of journals and see what happens. Think of it as a pitch from me to you in the hopes that, one day, you’ll buy my book.
Oh, hey, speaking of the pitch…
From the query letter: If Harry Dresden had a little sister, she would be Samantha Kane.
Samantha Kane. The name popped into my head one night. As soon as it did, I knew she wouldn’t like being called Samantha – that would be what her mother and father called her when she was in trouble or they were disappointed somehow. So, she’d tell everyone to call her Sam. I wanted her to have a sense of humor similar to mine but more subdued. I still remember my cousin setting up a job interview for me ten years ago and coaching me. I said, “So, I just need to be myself.” and he recoiled and said, “God no! You have to ease people into that.”
I’ve talked about this before. I wrote the story and then read my first Dresden novel and decided that humor could be used the way I wanted and it would work (I thought you had to keep the humor to a minimum to be taken seriously). So Sam became what I originally intended and each new draft became tighter, stronger and, most importantly – funnier.
Pushing the book through my writer’s group, I added the tag:
Warnings for strong language, violence & smart assery
This sent a clear message to the group, one they embraced and loved from the get-go.
But, just making your character a smart-ass isn’t creating a character. You need more. Sam needed more. I know the Urban Fantasy tropes and I wanted to go beyond those and add layers of complexity. Plus, I don’t want you to think it’s a comedy. I have comedy beats in there, but I bring the drama too. Also part of the pitch: During the most difficult week of her life…
I made Sam a police officer who just became a detective and then I took that away from her in the first chapter, flipping her world upside down. Not just a cop, she’s second generation, and her father, Michael, is well known and loved on the force, so she has that ‘true blue’ thing hanging over her head. Her dad is her hero, the ideal for who and what she wants to be and we all know what happens when we place someone on such a pedestal. No matter what you do, you’ll never measure up. That eats at Sam. Add that he has cancer and is wasting away on the porch of the house where she grew up and you start to see a real dynamic forming.
Family doesn’t stop there, though. Sam’s mom is in the mix; a devout Catholic who lays the guilt on thick as molasses. They don’t see eye to eye and that friction makes it more fun when Sam wants to help out and do the right thing. Three brothers too; Michael Jr. is the eldest in the family and lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and child, Sean comes after Sam in order of Kane children, and is in college in California, then there’s Simon – 16 years old and rebelling against every rule their parent’s make. With her father ill, it falls to Sam to help with Simon, keep him out of trouble. She resents having to do this, feels guilty for thinking such things (the Catholic guilt…) and Simon doesn’t make things any easier for her because he is a teenage boy whose father is dying before he really got to know him. And that sucks.
The Catholic thing was important to me. I grew up in a Catholic house and I just like to add Catholic stuff to my writing (I am no longer religious)(Also love movies with Catholic beliefs like exorcisms as the central theme). Guilt plays such an important role (IMHO) in Catholicism and is fun to play with and adds another layer to Sam that, so far, readers have identified with and enjoyed.
But, you say, where’s the fantasy part?
Simple. On top of everything else, I made Sam a Wizard. Unlike most Wizards you may have met, though, she has lived her entire life up to the point where the book begins without ever knowing about the power inside her. Why?
…that would be telling.
Next time – I want to talk about Jack Mayfair, Wizard.