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Blackthorn's heartless anti-hero? I have a post about Caleb Dehain coming soon.

Other posts to come: A glossary of Blackthorn's characters, a recap on the Blackthorn story so far, and maybe even another giveaway!

Creating Blackthorn’s Couples: Eden and Jessie

*WARNING!! This post contains HUGE spoilers for Blood Deep!*

This is the last of my takes on my Blackthorn couples, everyone. If you missed my previous posts on creating Kane and Caitlin, Caleb and Leila, or Jask and Phia, just follow the links.

In Blood Deep, I introduced Eden and Jessie, the fourth and final couple who play a significant role in the future of Blackthorn. Their story also explored more of the human plight in both Blackthorn and Lowtown, revealing that the third species weren’t the only victims of the corrupt system maintained by the Global Council.

Having first visited it briefly in Blood Torn (when Jask and Phia went to visit the rather unpleasant Travis, who you’ll know went on to get his comeuppance at Eden’s hands), it was time to venture deeper into con territory with Blood Deep.

Welcome to the south side

On the south side of Blackthorn, depravity rules in a culture of bullying, of impulses overruling humanity, and a deep vein of selfishness running through every action. It’s a place where human beings stop seeing each other as that, but more as objects or a means to an end. The south side is a reflection of the worst side of human nature – and sadly not one based purely in fantasy.

Blood Deep was particularly challenging to write having not long finished Blood Torn. The negative gang mentality of the cons was a sharp contrast to the pack mentality I’d explored with the lycans. Whereas Jask ruled his tight-knit community with a focus on protection, nurturing and defense for the greater good, Pummel’s rule was all about safety in numbers to gain power over the weak, and to dominate and control for self-serving means.

Deep in the heart of con territory seemed the most unlikely place to find an angel, a decent human being, and couldn’t have been a more unsuitable place for a pack of stolen lycan young.

The human and the envoi

I’ve not exactly shied away from risks whilst writing Blackthorn. As I’ve said previously, I did have the advantage of not thinking it would ever be read, let alone published. It’s easier to develop a story the way you want and to go with your gut instinct when you have no basis for comparison and no prospect of upset reviewers to contend with. So when I first mapped out Blackthorn, I didn’t hesitate over switching the trodden path and having a human as a hero. Nor did I have any concerns about having a third species heroine. After all, both were simply integral to the story.

However, after I was able to reveal the hero of book four was human, some openly admitted they were a little apprehensive – not least how anyone was going to stand up alongside the third species powerhouses that were Kane, Caleb and Jask.

How Eden and Jessie developed

I often get asked for tips from new writers about how I set about creating the world of Blackthorn as well as all its characters – and it’s always tricky to explain. Blackthorn was an accumulative creation of setting, characters and plotting all forming at different stages and building on each other over many years of dipping in and out.

For those who don’t already know, my heroes and heroines grew out of short stories I wrote back when I was first devising the world of Blackthorn.

Creating Eden

Eden first appeared when I was trying to work out the law-enforcement system that was in place to manage the four districts in the series. He was a character I devised around the same time as Kane.

I already knew Caitlin was a part of the TSCD as a VCU agent, but I also came to realise law enforcement couldn’t exist through that alone. Needing frontline soldiers to keep order on the borders, I created Curfew Enforcement Officers (Kane himself refers to them and their roles in Blood Shadows).

Eden was one of three officers I had in a short story – CEO’d up in full protective leathers and visor helmet, chasing a rogue vampire down the back alleys of Blackthorn. Eden stood out from the others instantly. A law unto himself, but effective at his job, Eden wasn’t anxious of breaking and bending the rules – and I wanted to know why. Like all my other heroes who made it to the final cut, he fascinated me enough to ask sufficient questions to subsequently turn him into a fully developed character.

Before long, Eden had the backstory of being a child who had survived the treacherous streets of Lowtown, with little prospect or opportunity despite all of his potential. It gave his character empathy toward the plight of humans in Lowtown, complemented by his protective role towards his family forced to reside there. He even went on to make it as a CEO – a job usually reserved for residents of Midtown. Eden became a survivor because he could effectively play the role of the chameleon, altering himself to match his environment. Past experiences had left him self-sufficient, quick-thinking and, when needed, brutal. Like my other heroes, he had developed a hardness in order to survive in a hard world.

But Eden never lost sight of his softer side – especially not around those he cared about, creating something of a dichotomous character, even more than any of my other heroes.

By the time Eden was fully developed, Kane was already hero to the east, Caleb to the west and Jask to the north. With the south already overrun by cons, Eden became my masked hero of Lowtown, out there protecting it every night, toeing the line to keep his family safe. And because of my lifelong fascination with superheroes, I’d already started sparking ideas for the potential of angel tears.

Creating Jessie (Jesca)

Born out of my plans for Eden, as well as Sirius’s plans for supremacy, Jessie introduced another new slant on established mythology for Blackthorn. The same as with my vampire and lycan mythology (you can read about those by scrolling down here), I wanted to get back to the roots of angel origins and not just accept popular cultural portrayals. Whilst researching, I came across the concept of envois – ‘messengers’ – and Jessie’s role in the overarching plot soon began to grow.

As well as having a lot of fun with a heroine whose physical abilities finally matched the hero’s (Leila and Phia’s ability to poison vampires aside), the potential for Jessie was immense. Strong, smart, self-controlled, brave, she was having way too much going for her to be trapped in the situation she was in with the cons. So I soon realised that for both Blood Deep and the overarching story to work, Jessie needed one huge weakness – something that trapped her somehow. I also needed something to prevent Sirius walking in and snatching her out of Pummel’s grasp.

Binding Jessie

I therefore gave Jessie a (as yet unrevealed) shady past, and subsequently bound her by a necklace – an equivalent ball and chain that imprisons her. If in her possession, she is free to move within a given distance of it. If wearing it, she can go wherever she wants. If the necklace is in someone else’s possession, they own her and her abilities, and she is helpless to retaliate against them. If the necklace is destroyed, she dies with it.

From her back story, we know Jessie had the good fortune of initially being found by a human who had no intention of “owning” her or her powers, instead giving her back her necklace. In turn, she stayed with them out of choice. We then know that the necklace was stolen by cons during a raid on her home. Pummel’s possession of the necklace meant her ownership was transferred to him. By the end of Blood Deep, Eden managed to retrieve it, giving it back to her and once again temporarily “freeing” her.

Humanity in an inhumane world

Although dark in premise, each of my stories have a glimmer of light. When I knew the lycan young were going to end up on the south side of Blackthorn, that it was going to take a human to blend with the cons to get them out, and that, to fit in with Sirius’s plans, they’d have to have something to do with the TSCD, I knew Eden finally had his place. Besides, if anyone deserved to see the decent side of humanity, it was Jessie – and Eden seemed fit for both jobs.

Out of all my heroines, Jessie was by far the loneliest. She was alone in terms of species in Pummel’s row, had nothing in common with anyone around her, was purposefully isolated by Pummel and, above all else, knows she has committed some kind of crime that led her to be exiled by her parliament. Despite all of this, Jessie, although non-human, became a symbol of humanity in an inhumane world.

Gladly her compassion, dignity and refusal to be broken by Pummel became traits Eden both recognised and admired. In turn, Jessie saw hints of sensitivity and tenderness in Eden in a world void of it – not least when he discovered her scars. As well as this, his ability to practice self-control in the face of Jessie’s opposition and temptation equally reflected a decent side to human nature that glowed amidst a depraved backdrop.

Like Eden, Jessie too had learned about self-sufficiency, survival and, fortunately, how to read people effectively. But once the friction of self-preservation subsided, both were looking out for each other at every opportunity, resulting in as much a friendship forming as a physical relationship. Both were able to show that despite being drenched in the rancidness around them, they could still make choices to benefit others – not least when they found themselves fighting a common cause to save the lycan young. And now that these two have learned to trust each other, it seems little could get in their way.

Their future

Despite their commitment to each other, the challenge isn’t yet over for Eden and Jessie. In particular, loose ends are very much untied as far as Sirius is concerned – and he’s not going to give up easily, not with Jessie still able to identify the vampire leader he needs to destroy.

Despite plenty of glimpses in the latter part of Blood Deep, Jessie has yet to tap into all her innate abilities – many of which I’m looking forward to sharing later in the series. The necklace still exists though and there’s still a risk that someone else could get possession of it again – and her with it.

Eden has undergone a transformation since consuming Jessie’s tears. He may have enhanced responses, strength and senses just like the super-human army Sirius is building to invade Blackthorn, but the consequences are still unknown.

Above all else, nothing is yet known about Jessie’s background, and exactly why she was punished in the first place. I will be revealing more as the story progresses – and it could be something to throw up a whole raft of challenges at a pivotal time.

Don’t worry if you’ve lost track of all the threads though, I’ll be doing a recap on the story so far nearer Blood Dark’s release for anyone who needs a refresher  – I know it’s getting complex in there!

Have a great week! :-)

Blood Dark is Written

Some of you might be very pleased to know that, as of last night, the completed first draft of Blood Dark is on my editor’s desk. Yay!!!

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

I’ve recently had a few conversations with readers eagerly awaiting their next installment of Blackthorn as well as querying why it takes so long between books. First of all, it’s flattering that it feels like such a long wait! Second of all, in truth, the turnaround with Blackthorn books is actually quite quick – especially considering their average 120K word count, and the complexity of the overarching story that runs through the series. Here’s a little of what happens:

START TO FINISH

It usually takes me around eight weeks to write the first draft of a Blackthorn book (bearing in mind all of the series is already plotted out). During that time, amidst copious amounts of note making, it’s head down and writing chapter after chapter. A first draft is all about getting the story down in its raw form – no rewriting or worrying about all the finer details, because that comes later. The first draft is so my editor can judge if the story that I originally intended has made it onto the page in a way that is structurally sound. They’ll look at everything from story arc to character development and journey, to pacing, and, in the case of Blackthorn, how it fits into the overarching plot too.

Aside from when the finished book goes out to reviewers for the first time, waiting for this initial feedback is definitely the most daunting part of the entire process.

SO CAN YOU NOW ANNOUNCE THE RELEASE DATE?

Despite being nagged to within an inch of my life to be more specific (you’re all so lovely), I can still only indicate ‘Summer’ for release. We do have a provisional month, but it doesn’t get shared until my editor decides how much structural work the book needs and, in liaison with my publisher, I agree to the timescales I believe I can work to based on the initial feedback. I’ll give you more information as soon as I can, I promise!

AFTER THAT…

After the structural edits are completed, I receive the line edits – the nitty-gritty of all those finer details. Once the line edits are completed and approved by me, a brand new set of eyes then come in with the copy edits to focus on the spelling, the grammar, the consistencies etc. Again, I make any necessary changes and then have to approve these too. After that, it heads off to the typesetter. Once I have approved the final version, the book is then distributed as an ARC (Author Review Copy) via my publisher to reviewers. That’s not taking into account all the other work my publisher does leading up to that point. This all happens before it gets anywhere near my readers.

WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN EDITS?

Between edits is a vital time to catch up on all the things I don’t have time to do while actually writing. It is the perfect time for me to get blog posts written; to respond a little quicker to all my readers who get in touch; and, of course, make a start on the next Blackthorn book (I get withdrawal after about three days). It’s also the chance to clear up the copious amounts of post-it notes, notepads, scrap bits of paper (sometimes thoughts come when you least expect them), pencils, pens, mugs, and anything else in the writer trail I’ve left around the house whilst in “the zone” – only for it all to start again a couple of weeks later…

SO THANKS FOR BEING THERE

Writing has to be the best job ever. I love every minute of mine, and completing a first draft is one of the best feelings. But it’s not an easy job. Like any job, some days are really tough. It’s not the kind of thing we’re supposed to confess to but I think it’s good, particularly for aspiring authors (I know a few follow this blog), to know that none of us are immune to that wall of self-doubt that can hit at any time. If mine could have knocked me out cold these past couple of months, I think it would have – and, some days, it nearly did.

This is when I count myself very lucky to have you because, during the past couple of months while I’ve been working on Blood Dark, not more than two days have gone by without a reader emailing me, or messaging me, or tweeting me to share what they’ve enjoyed, tell me they’ve just discovered Blackthorn, or have now finished all four, or have asked when the next one is out… There is nothing quite like those intermittent boosts to fend off all those negative jabs that can really affect the writing process. So thank you, Team Blackthorn, as always, for every snippet of encouragement and support you continue to send my way. Blood Dark is now that one giant leap closer.

I’ll be back on the weekend with that blog post about Blood Deep’s Jessie and Eden that I’ve been promising you for ages. Until then, have a great week! <3