22 September 2010

Guestblog: Stacia Kane about Chess Putnam

When I was thinking about my feature there was one author that was on my radar for a guestblog and I just had to invite her over for a talk about her female protag. By now she probably talked herself hoarse about Chess but I was intrigued by her protag from the first review/blurb I read. You can give my fantastic worlds to discover, a nail biting plot to unravel but if the main characters fail to grab my attention, intrigue me with their personality and secrets everything else is just in vain. Chess Putnam is the kind of leading lady who I want accompany in her journey, witness and go through all the ups and downs with and hopefully some day she will be in some form of a happy place. I just hope Stacia Kane has delivered quite a few books in this series before that happens though :)

I'm giving the stage to Stacia Kane now...

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I don’t know where Chess came from.

I mean, yeah, I invented her, but I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking. She was just there, someone I knew intimately, someone whose reactions to things I could gauge pretty easily.

And by now I imagine anyone who’s heard anything about me or the books, or who’s read anything else I’ve written on the subject, is tired of hearing me say how I wanted to write something different, something that would challenge me. Something with a character more like me, who didn’t have superpowers, who couldn’t solve all of the plot’s problems with a gun; who couldn’t even begin to solve all of her own problems, much less anyone else’s.

So I had this character, Chess, who I knew and loved and wanted to write more than anything. And yeah, she had a few…issues. Issues I knew could make her into a big huge downer really really fast.

One thing I learned from…well, I don’t know where I learned it from, but I learned it, and lucky for me that I did. Everyone has weaknesses. We all have them—some of us more than others—but we all have weaknesses, and we all have sadness, and we all have insecurities; at least, everyone I know and like does. Characters should too.

But characters, especially in genre fiction, have to be likeable, and relatable. And I knew asking readers to relate to her, given some of her problems, was maybe asking a lot. I was so excited; I was going to do something I hadn’t done before, something I hadn’t seen before, and most importantly something that was really going to mean something to me. But lots of writers write books that mean something to them. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean anyone else is going to give a shit. And I didn’t want to write Stacia’s Depressing Novel of Depressingness, either. I just wanted to write something that kicked ass and didn’t apologize for it, and I wanted people to read it.

So I had to give Chess more than just problems; or rather, I had to find a way to show that she is more than her problems, a lot more. And luckily for me that was easy, because she is.

For me, I think, her most defining positive quality is her loyalty. I’m sure if you’re reading this you’ve read the first three books, but just to avoid spoiling if you haven’t I’ll say that yes, she does sort of mess that up with regards to her personal life, at least to some extent. But to me, just as it was to her, what she was doing physically wasn’t disloyal, not to anyone but herself. I think it was obvious that she made a big choice in that first book because the realization that there was another option for her terrified her. And that when she finally committed to taking that option, she committed to it, no matter how useless she thought it was.

But no matter whose bed she was in, she stayed loyal. She wasn’t giving up someone else’s secrets; she wasn’t even giving up her own secrets. (Lex still doesn’t know why she got that tulip tattoo.)

With that loyalty comes the determination to protect the person or thing to which she’s loyal. Yes, by catching those seeking to defraud the Church (the crime, which I mentioned in one of the books, is technically called “Conspiracy to commit spectral fraud”) she’s doing the “right” thing and upholding the law. But the law comes second to Chess; I think that’s obvious from her willingness to bend it when necessary. Loyalty comes first. Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean the “right” thing. The right thing to do is the thing that will help whomever Chess is in a position to help.

Someone pointed out to me a while ago something I hadn’t actually caught at all while writing the first three books. Chess is loyal to the Church which saved her, and Terrible is loyal to Bump, who saved him. Obviously I knew when writing it that Terrible saw Bump as saving him—and believe me, he did. But it didn’t occur to me how similar those stories were, or that they were both essentially saved by chance and skills they didn’t ask for. Or that although I haven’t gone into it yet in the books, the relationship between Bump and Terrible is actually closer than I think people suspect. Certainly it’s closer than the one Chess has with the Church itself (with the obvious exception of Elder Griffin). Or that both of them threw so much of their loyalty to something which had so much control over them.

I’ve always thought loyalty was pretty much the most important quality a person can have. It was a big deal for me when writing the books to show that, and to show how it developed. Most of the conflicts in Chess’s personal life stem from it, from the beginning of UNHOLY GHOSTS where she essentially had none outside the Church, to the end of CITY OF GHOSTS where there are quite a few more people in her world. But then I think it’s that way for most of us.

And since it’s very late at night now—or very early in the morning, whichever way you want to look at it—I’m going to end it there, and open the post to questions of anyone feels like asking them (feel free not to, of course. I know this little post has been a tad dull, but it’s kind of hard to discuss characters; it feels a little like getting naked in front of strangers). So if there’s anything you want to know about Chess, or about writing her, or whatever, ask away. I won’t give spoilers but I’ll answer anything else!

Thanks, Leontine, for inviting me! And thanks everyone for reading.

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  1. Hey Stacia!

    Since everyone is on the Terrible love train, or perhaps I should say Chevile, did you always plan to have the Terrible and Chess outcome that occurs in City of Ghosts? Or as you were writing it just suddenly came to you to write it that way?

  2. Nice post :)

    I have no questions :( Makes me sad. I must read the book and know why everyone keeps talking about Terrible and Chess

  3. Hey Katiebabs!

    Actually, I'd originally intended for them just to become very close friends, and then he was going to die at the end of the first book. But then I realized how strong the chemistry between them was, and that if I killed him I'd infuriate a lot of people and, frankly, lose one of the major parts of the series' appeal; when every beta reader I had came back to rave about Terrible I knew he was really someone special and not just someone *I* thought was special. :-)

    But honestly, yes and no, re CoG. I knew they'd have that ending at some point--and I know what will happen with them in the future--but I'd actually wanted to keep them apart until the fourth book. My problem was that my contract was only for three, and the thought of leaving readers without a resolution should I not be invited to do more books was...just something I couldn't do. So I knew I was going to have to do it in the third book, just in case.

    *******SPOILERS BELOW*******

    HOW it happened just came as I wrote the book, though. I had that tunnel scene planned in my head since I finished writing UG, but I had no idea how I was going to get them to a place where he could believably forgive her enough to give being together a try. The bit with her almost dying came from the plot, but after I wrote the scene in Lauren's apartment I realized that yeah, thinking she was dead, and seeing her almost dead, is the kind of thing that would make him feel differently about the situation. And of course he never stopped feeling about her the way he felt; I hope it was really clear throughout the book what a hard time he was actually having being cold and cruel to her, because every time something bad happened to her his first instinct was still to help her, and every time a question of her abilities or whatever came up his first instinct was to compliment her and tell her how much confidence he had in her. So it wasn't a question of him no longer caring, it was him trying to get over how much she'd hurt him, and I think--I hope--her near-death experience was a big enough deal that it makes sense for him to forgive her.

    But yeah, once I decided to let him live in UG, lol, the entire arc of their relationship came to me, so I know everything that's going to happen with them. :-)

  4. And I thank you for that :) And the last 2 pages of City of Ghosts.

    I could see Terrible was hurting. He wouldn't be so cruel to Chess, if he didn't care. The payoff was well worth it, even though at the time, as I was reading the tunnel scene, I couldn't help but think, wouldn't it be funny if a rat watched them both. LOL.

  5. I haven't read your books yet, Stacia, but I bought all three a few weeks back after Smokin' Hot Books pimped them and sold them on me. KC plays dirty with my reader heart sometimes. ;)

    Chess sounds like an extremely interesting character, one I'm most excited to learn more about. Thanks for taking the time to talk more about her. I might be revisiting this post after I dive into the reads.

  6. Thanks for the post Stacia! You know I'm a huge fan of Chess and Terrible, no questions but I will say the wait for book 4 is *killing* me! :)

  7. Not dull at all! ;) I have no questions, just the uncontrollable urge to start reading these books!

  8. I could have sworn I sent another reply to this post!

    Lol, Katiebabs! I have to admit I'm tempted to write a scene like that now!

    And thanks, everyone, so much! I'm about 1/4 of the way into Book 4--almost at the end of Chapter Nine. I really hope you all think it's worth the wait when it come out; I don't want to let you down!

  9. Stacia: If you need a beta reader for book 4, I volunteer my services. ;)


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