While I’m putting the finishing chapters of The Calling to rest, editing stories for the collection, and trying to get some shorts started (I’ve been really out of the submissions game as I work on the big stuff this year) I’m going to treat you guys (and gals) to the author of Climate Change, Daniel Durrant.
Why do some characters turn out they way they do in books? Well, read on…
Charlie is my Angel
As hard as I try, I cannot plan a novel in its entirety. Perhaps more accurately, I can, but I have learned it is a waste of time; the plot always changes along the way. No matter how detailed my map may be, parts of the story wander off in a different direction. I have come to realise the cast is usually responsible. My characters, it seems, don’t follow directions very well.
Since the lead character will define much of what happens, I make sure I have a clear vision of them before I start writing. In Climate Change, for example, I knew exactly who I wanted Edward to be. Probably as a result of this, he (mostly) behaved himself, and didn’t grab the steering wheel too often. No, the troublemaker in Climate Change was Charlotte, which is one of the reasons I like her so much.
To be honest, Charlie was originally intended to be quite a straightforward character, the result of my decision that the story would be more compelling if Edward had a love interest. A pretty girl was required, that was all. Perhaps fittingly considering her nature, Charlie took over at that point, and decided that wasn’t good enough. How did she become so wilful? On reflection, I think there are a couple of reasons.
The first is that I became aware the story needed a strong female perspective. Much is different in my twist on the Victorian era, but chauvinism is alive and well. Climate Change is ultimately a story about challenges, be they geographical or moral, and I realised the story would seem rather one-dimensional if the men dictated everything.
Ultimately, Charlie refused to stand by and play Kate to Edward’s Leo when the ship hits trouble. I think the novel is much better that way, particularly as it allows Edward to be a believable, flawed man; he’s a genius, and brave, but has no idea what to do in a fight. Instead, it’s Charlie that drives the action, and I like that.
The second reason she grew beyond my original concept is simple; Charlie draws quite heavily from a real person. This is not something I do often (and if I do, I certainly don’t admit it!) as I think it can be risky. In this case, however, the lady in question already knows, so I’m safe. Well, safe-ish, anyway.
Many of Charlie’s qualities are inherited from a friend of mine. Although still quite young, she has travelled extensively, seen a lot, and learned several languages. Possibly as a result of her experiences, she holds some unconventional views. A few pages into writing the story, I realised that Charlie and the person whose name will be withheld to protect the innocent were almost one and the same; it was impossible to think of one without the other. In my defence, it was an accident, although a predictable one in hindsight.
So yes, Charlie is my troublemaker and the better for it. She ended up causing major changes to the plot, but it was worth the grief; I know Climate Change is stronger as a result. Despite that, I still feel her potential was under-used, which is why Charlie will be doing something much more important in the sequel.
On reflection, perhaps our creations should have a will of their own. Characters that meekly follow the authors’ wishes would be boring, wouldn’t they?
Now, here is an excerpt from Daniel’s new book, Climate Change:
On the ride out, Edward tried to glimpse the modifications that were his design. All space forward was taken by three quadruple turrets. They began to pass the castle, but before the stern became visible, the ship was lost in a fog bank of her own making.
“She has decay engines?” Charlotte asked, watching steam engulf the superstructure.
“Yes, four.” He pointed at the cooling towers. “I can arrange a tour if you’d like,” he offered, hoping to impress.
“Yes.” She smiled. “I would.”
After hopping off at the loading pavilion, they pushed through the crowd and showed their papers to the Royal Marine manning the embarkation point. He directed them toward the nearest elevator, but as they approached, an enormous man began to close the gate.
“Hold, if you please!” Edward called, hurrying forward.
The giant hesitated, but dropped the latch at the signal of an expensively dressed woman standing beside him. The platform began to climb, but those aboard were unprepared. Near the guardrail, two men struggling with a huge portmanteau overbalanced.
Muscles battled gravity as the platform continued skyward. Gravity won. The luggage teetered on the edge before plummeting down, dragging one of the men behind it. They landed together. Clothes, trinkets, and blood dispersed across the unforgiving stone.
“Medic!” Charlotte yelled, running forward. “We need a doctor!”
Edward knelt down and grabbed the man’s wrist, but found no pulse.
“We shan’t need one, I’m afraid.” He shook his head.
“Don’t trouble yourself, Miss,” a marine said. “He’s only a Jack.”
“A Jack?” Edward removed the man’s woolen hat. The scalp beneath was fashioned not from flesh, but metal. A bundle of wires trailed down under his collar. He stood, and looked around. Free from distraction, it was obvious; the stevedores moved with the stilted gait of the converted.
“You bloody fools!” The woman from the elevator barged past them, directing her staff to clean up. “Don’t touch that!” she shouted, as a maid picked up an ornate music box. She snatched the item away, and passed it to the tall man.
“Can I be of assistance?” Edward offered.
“I very much doubt it!” His offer seemed to feed her anger, but then she calmed. “It was a gift from my father,” she said, perhaps trying to justify her outburst. “Excuse us.”
“Lady Holden,” Charlotte murmured, as they climbed aboard another elevator. “I see she’s every bit as charming as her reputation suggests.”
The name seemed familiar, but Edward had no chance to enquire about it.
As they stepped aboard, a young man burst through a service door, charging toward them.
“Stop!” someone hollered, but the man paid no heed. He dashed for a loading ramp, but a gunshot ended his journey. He collapsed beside them, blood erupting from his chest.
Marines ran forward with guns drawn, but had no more targets.
“Sir? Madam? Are you alright?” An officer lowered his weapon, and stepped forward.
Edward looked at the would-be escapee. Blood spread unchecked until it hit the edge of the plank under him. Acting like a miniature dyke, the caulking carried it to the gunwale drain.
“Yes, we’re fine. Thank you, Lieutenant,” Charlotte replied.
A rhythmic hammering sound finally drew Edward’s attention from the body. Looking up, he saw Captain Fitzjames approaching. Standing nearly seven feet tall on his pneumatic legs, he strode forward to join them.
“I must apologize,” the Captain said. “Hardly an appropriate welcome, Miss Redpath.” He smiled. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
“Captain.” She nodded. “I was most grieved to hear of your injury at the battle of Buenos Aires.”
Redpath? Charlotte Redpath? Edward tried hard to keep his face blank, but knew he’d failed. Charlie? Stunned, he shook his head.
“Chance hit from a shore battery, but the objective was achieved. The Argentine Navy was completely destroyed.” Shrugging, he tapped the brass thigh tank. “The admiralty insists my uniform should be tailored to hide them, but I believe it does the men good to see that officers share the danger with them.” He turned to Edward. “Doctor Rankine, I presume?”
“Yes, Captain.” As a civilian, Edward had no protocol to observe, but pulled himself upright nonetheless. “It’s an honor, sir.”
“Hmn. Frankly, I don’t care for what you’ve done to my ship, Doctor. The loss of the aft turret concerns me.” He frowned, but then a narrow smile crossed his lips. “However, I must admit I’m curious to see the system in action.”
“Sir, look at this.” Kneeling beside the body, a Marine pulled the man’s shirt open. A small tree was tattooed on his sternum.
“Creationist!” Fitzjames growled. Air hissed from a bleed valve as he stamped a foot. “Lieutenant, organize a search-”
“Sir, we have another one!” Two Marines exited from the nearest elevator, dragging a man between them. “Caught him in the engine room, sir. Chief Engineer said he was tampering with the vortex transducers.”
“You are aboard a vessel of the Royal Navy,” Fitzjames said, clipping off each word. “Sabotaging a ship-of-the-line carries a mandatory life sentence. Take him for marionisation.”
“No!” The man sagged down between his captors. Only their grip prevented his collapse. “Captain, I beg you!”
“I’m sorry, son. It’s too late for that.” He hesitated. “Be grateful we have a good surgeon. It won’t hurt.”
Listening to him scream as the Marines hauled him away, Edward wondered if the dead man hadn’t been the luckier one. At least he couldn’t suffer any more.
“Captain, chance seems an unlikely explanation for this,” he said, trying to focus. “We have to consider that someone has leaked details of our mission.”
“You’re suggesting there’s a traitor aboard the Dominator?” Fitzjames snarled.
Thinking himself the target of the Captain’s anger, Edward took a step back.
“Damn it, you’re right. Too much coincidence.” He called the officers close. Through clenched teeth, he ordered an immediate departure. “We don’t want a panic. Keep this quiet, but place double guards on all restricted areas.” Surrounded by his entourage, he walked away, still issuing orders.
“You’re Charlotte Redpath?” Edward asked.
“The last time I checked, yes.” She looked down at herself.
“You might have told me.” The daughter of one of the wealthiest industrialists in the world, and he’d taken her for some grubby scout. Edward shook his head, feeling dizzy. He couldn’t take much more of this. As if the expedition alone wasn’t terror enough, trouble had struck before the ship could even sail.
“I’m sorry, Edward.” She touched his arm. “Don’t sulk. It wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun.”
“Oh, Miss Redpath?” Fitzjames turned back. “As I said, this is a vessel of the Royal Navy.” He gestured at her filthy clothes. “Sponsor or not, Her Majesty’s rules dictate a dress code.”
In a world driven by steam and power-hungry Industrialists, can one man change the course of history?
Edward Rankine, inventor and engineer aboard the battle-cruiser Dominator, has devised an ingenious plan to open the frozen Northwest Passage.
Believing he is performing a service for the benefit of mankind, Edward is appalled to discover there is a saboteur in his midst.
Working with a crew of ‘Jacks and Jills’, mechanically enhanced humans sentenced to a life of servitude, Edward is forced to battle on the icebound waters of the northern seas.
Not only does Edward have a mutiny on his hands, but he must also find a way to save the passengers aboard the Dominator, possibly abandoning his own noble ambition in the process.
Will Edward’s plan succeed in the face of adversity, or in failing to clear the Northwest Passage will he stumble upon something greater?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Daniel Durrant is a new author writing mainly in the horror and science fiction genres. His short stories have been published in anthologies in the UK and USA, and he is currently working on his first full-length novel. He lives on the Norfolk Coast in England.
Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Climate Change by Daniel Durrant to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!
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