Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not one of those authors whose characters run the show. The ones who sit down to write an action scene, but end up writing a sex scene because their characters demand it. So many people say this that I feel like I’m missing out, but my own writing process is far more prosaic – I’m the author, and I know exactly what my characters are going to do, because I’m the one with the pen in my hand. On occasion, however, I do have characters who sneak up on me. Bit players who become larger players, gaining page time and backstory because they’re so damn entertaining.
My new novel Unbreakable (out tomorrow via the Bold Strokes site) features one such character. The book was supposed to be a double-header, a standard, dual point of view story that I almost immediately realised wouldn’t work. While Grace and Elin’s half of the plot was clearly the focus, I knew the story needed another element, something to ramp up the tension and keep the pace kicking along. Enter Safia Faris, a Detective Sergeant tasked to investigate a seemingly simple murder, who gets pulled into a case that’s anything but simple.
Initially conceived as a tertiary role, Safia stole into the story proper. Her scenes, particularly those featuring her police partner Suds, and her girlfriend Kami, provide an opportunity for some much-needed light relief, while her character gives me the chance to play with parallel timelines where the reader knows a hell of a lot more than she does, because they’re privy to what’s going on between Grace and Elin. This was something I’d never done before, and keeping Safia one step behind my other two leading ladies, without making her seem daft, was a challenge I relished. Far from being a minor concern, her character and her investigation became a fully fledged part of the novel, with her methodical unpicking of the clues and piecing together of the mystery allowing me to develop her background and her personal life.
Looking back at how Unbreakable came about, Safia was far too polite to demand more page time. She didn’t strut into the novel with a list of scenes clutched in her fist, and kick someone else off the page. She earned her place by creeping in beneath my radar, and by having courage, perseverance, a sweet nature, a loving girlfriend, a stupid dog, and a daft mate. I often say my leading ladies are a joy to write, but there’s something even more joyful about finding one you never intended.
Unbreakable will be released October 1st via the Bold Strokes Books website, and October 12th everywhere else. An audio version is currently being recorded and will be hopefully be out hot on the heels of the print release.