(Continued from the previous post.)
-At first I based Amelia off of my friend’s teenaged daughter. That quickly had to change, because the girl always had the same smile on her face no matter what. Soccer, dance, sleep, funerals, whatever. That change didn’t come about until the next book, though.
–Fleshing out the female lead. Writing Amelia was a very smooth and natural exercise. She just jumped onto the page, fully developed. The first hard part came when I tried writing from her point of view in SUICIDE RUN. When Calvin describes her, she’s flawless, but in her own mind she knows she has weaknesses. I like how that worked.
–Remember, this is fiction. If the recruits are training in three weeks, it makes sense that they’d do actual combat maneuvers in three days. Right? Right? Oh, the power of suspended disbelief.
-That mage that gets blown away? John Cleese.
Note: frosted iron knives are used for the first time. The fabrication device for those things is probably one of the highest levels of technology in the Engines world. I intentionally added krypton to the process, for reasons of general Superman fandom on my part.
-Brian McCracken? Will Poulter.
–Consequences. I couldn’t just glaze over the fact that Calvin had killed a man. While it doesn’t dominate his every waking thought after that, it does strike him at the proper moments. It was too important a detail to leave out; while this is an America more accustomed to the hard side of life, where most people have killed their own food at one point, it would have been easy to say “Oh, they just take life if they have to.” But that would have meant Calvin esteemed certain people the way he esteemed livestock…and that wouldn’t make him any different from the mages, in some contexts.
–Heating up. Also, I wanted to strengthen Calvin’s connection to Amelia. They were bound to have a romance, so the link needed some meat on its bones. The pantry scene got them alone, working together, so it was a step in the right direction.
-Rockefeller was Robert Picardo. Fitting, as he’s the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager.
-Goodall is my sis-in-law Shantewa.
-Whitney’s physical description is based on Paul Teutel Sr. of American Chopper fame, but his demeanor and skillset are based on the father of a childhood friend, who owns a tow truck company in the Vegas area.
–Rivalry. Stepping up the competition between Calvin and Edsel was also important. Basically whenever Edsel was talking, he needed to be full of himself. His rivalry with Calvin would push them both to be better. My editors at first referred to Edsel as the “Malfoy” of my trilogy, so I had to tone him down and make him more self-absorbed than deprecating. He and Calvin could have a rough dynamic at first, but I didn’t want it to define their contrast too sharply.
–Outdated. The warg mimic was an idea that I had so I could show older mimics that had been phased out for their flaws. Flying mimics of various models were much more useful. Still, I thought it was worth exploring.
–Prize piece. I’m proud of all of the technopunk things I came up with for this series, but I’ve given myself many pats on the back for engineering the flight simulator. I put a good amount of thought into it, and I daydreamed about it often. It came together really well and it was a good tool for Calvin to use so he could improve himself against Edsel.
–Giggity. The gryphon attack solved a few problems at once: show that Mount Vernon, the stronghold of the technomancer rebellion, is not immune to magical surveillance; and get Calvin and Amelia alone in such a way that it strengthens their attraction while earning Calvin more scorn from the McCracken family.
-If Jack Badgett is anyone, he’s Tom Cruise from Top Gun. I may yet write a standalone novel about his adventures down the road. It was fun to have a little propaganda icon for the young mimic pilots to idolize.
–Transcendent emotion.Without getting into all of the gory details, I feel like this scene came together tremendously well to illustrate a lot of things: fear of the really skilled mages, fear of sickness, fear of painful curses, that the technomancers have their own hero culture, and that Calvin (as well as Edsel) does not care about getting in trouble, not even with a mimic. This leads to one of my favorite exchanges in the book: Calvin and Edsel’s punishment.
-Peter McCracken is based on a young Wil Wheaton.
–Big kitties. I wrestled with the decision to call the big cats “painters” instead of “panthers.” While there are big gnarly tree cats in the woods of the eastern US, they’ve had different names at different times throughout history, and in an effort to give the series a colloquial flare, I went with “painter.” It painted the right kind of picture.
–Poultry. My wife has never hunted turkeys so I can’t tell you if they really behave this way. Someday I expect I’ll get hate mail for this scene if I got something wrong.
–Camaraderie. In a sense, this is the one chapter in the book where you see Edsel let his guard down and do something genuine. He does have a strong sense of self-importance, so putting him in a situation where he has to know that without Calvin he’d have been screwed, that gave me a chance to show his commendable side. His virtues.
–NOW it’s getting steamy. The lavatory scene was not originally that enticing. When you have two women professionally editing your book, scenes like this will naturally end up with suggestions like “Take his shirt off” and “This needs to last longer” and “That kiss sucked.” So I turned up the heat a little bit. You’re welcome. Ladies.
–Whence comest thou?! The defining scene of this chapter is the part where Calvin pulls a gun on Edsel. I’ve analyzed it and honestly I can’t tell you where it came from. Lots of portions of the book have a natural, progressive genesis; you tell me the instigating moment, I can walk you through the steps to its conclusion. But this…no clue. It’s just one of those moments where Calvin took on a life of his own and it felt right. I knew what kind of character he would need to be if he was going to survive the suicide run and play the patriot’s game. This was the result.
–Self-control…for now. I also felt it was important to show a slight shift in Calvin’s maturity by giving Edsel the original dispatch to Camp Liberty. Three weeks of intense physical training has to have some degree of emotional and mental impact; for Calvin, he started to get a grip on his temper, and by extension, his jealousy.
–Little did he know…What Calvin doesn’t realize is that the McCrackens are luring him into a false sense of complacency so that when they spring the real summons on him, he doesn’t overthink it; he just goes for it, post-haste, right into their trap.