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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

KILLING YOUR DARLINGS WITH GUEST AUTHOR TONI V. SWEENEY

Did Shakespeare angst over killing off Romeo and Juliet?
Since the publication of her first novel in 1989, Toni V. Sweeney divides her time between writing SF/Fantasy under her own name and romances under her pseudonym Icy Snow Blackstone. She also works as publicity manager for Class Act Books and is on the review staff of the New York Journal of Books and the paranormal Romance Guild. In 2016, she was named a Professional Reader by netgalley.com. Find out more about Toni and her books at here

Death and the Main Character
Never let it be said authors aren’t emotionally tied to their characters, no matter how important or how minor to the plot those characters may be.

It seemed simple enough.

One of my characters ran away from home as a child...led an adventurous but dissolute life...contracted a terminal disease. I'd decided he would return home, be welcomed back into the family fold, a cure would be found...and he'd live happily ever after.

It didn't work out that way.

The minute he staggered through the door, it hit me. He's going to die! "But I don't want it this way!" I shouted aloud, pushed away from the computer, and did a terribly embarrassing and stupid thing.

I put my hands to my face and burst into tears.

A little dramatic perhaps, but that's the way it happened. I had just killed off one of my main characters—and I didn't even intend to.

As I typed, I realized it had to be, because his death would influence the other characters from then on.

The character who died? Cash, my hero’s stepson, one of the second-string main characters.

Acashi Day-lin makes his first appearance in Sinbad's Last Voyage. At that time, he’s fourteen, the son of Andrea Talltrees and Tran Day, a handsome man-child with his father's startling semi-Asian looks. In that book, Cash doesn't take up many pages. When we meet him, he's sitting on the front porch of his mother's farmhouse, trying to absorb the fact that his world has just collapsed because his father is a fugitive, accused of being a spy and a smuggler named Sinbad sh'en Singh has taken his mother off-planet to search for him. His only other appearance is in the last chapter when he’s instrumental in reuniting Sin and Andi minutes before she gives birth to Sin’s son, but in those pages, he gives Sinbad a glimpse of future troubles to come.

In Sinbad's Wife, Cash has further adjustments. He now has a stepfather who is dying and a stepbrother, Adam Lawless, his partner in crime. While Sin is hospitalized, Cash and Adam raid the cookie jar and take themselves to Old Town to lose their virginity in an evening of teenage lust. When Andi is kidnapped by slavers, they enlist in the Space Guard to help bring her back. Confronted by his father, Cash has to make a choice between killing Tran or being called a coward by the man who sired him.

Fortunately, he’s saved from becoming a murderer by his stepfather.

Sinbad's Pride finds Cash a randy sixteen-year-old with hormones in overdrive, just beginning to emerge into the potential of a full-grown Serapian male. He runs away with Sin's concubine, only to find himself a single parent of twins, abandoned by his lover and forced to become an adult overnight as he is faced with the most difficult decision of all—how to provide for his children. Desperately, he sends them to Sinbad, begging him not to make them suffer for his sins.

Eighteen years have passed in Sinbad's Triumph. No longer the brash, ready-for-a-fight youngster, Cash is now thirty-seven, a weary but well-known mercenary dying of a terminal disease contracted during an unprotected back-alley encounter with a prostitute. He wants to go home, wants to see the sun come up over the mountains, wants to sit with his little sister N'Sagar as he used to when he would tell her he was making the sun come up just for her. With the help of N'Sagar and a doctor-monk from the Brotherhood of St Luke, he makes the journey back to Felida. Cash meets his children, Drea and Tran, discovering they have made him into a hero. He makes his peace with Sin, and everyone waits for the inevitable.

That was Cash’s history, and the reason I was so shocked by the way his story unfolded, albeit unwilling under my typing fingers. I had heard of characters taking over a story, of the story going off on tangents the author didn’t expect, but I’d never had it happen to me…until now.

Don’t think it didn’t hurt to write those lines. It wasn’t simply a matter of coldly finishing off a character, then pressing “Save” and going on to something else.

It hurt…and there was real emotional pain involved. What I had done lingered with me for days. I moped around as if a real person had died, someone I’d known and cared for. I delayed writing the rest of the novel. For a long time, I wavered in trying to decide if I should change the ending and give an eleventh hour rescue. At last, after much thought, I rationalized that Cash was, after all, just a fictional character, and I was being silly acting this way. I decided to leave the story as it was. It was more lifelike…

…after all, there aren’t many last-minute rescues in life, are there?

I've killed off other characters since (and some of them truly deserved it), but none affected me like Cash's death. Perhaps it's the fact that he was the first, or that I wrote into his passing my own first-hand, heart-wrenching experience of witnessing the death of someone I loved. Whatever the reason, killing off a character you've created from childhood to adulthood is a traumatic experience. I wouldn’t advise it as a matter of course; it's like losing a friend—and it stays with you.

Sinbad's Triumph will be released March 15. The other novels in the Adventures of Sinbad series are available as ebooks at Amazon and other major e-tailers. The paperback version is sold exclusively on the publisher’s website.

Sinbad’s Pride
The Adventures of Sinbad, Book 4

Being a family man doesn’t mean life’s over.

Sinbad sh’en Singh returns to his former occupation, with help from a loophole in Felida’s treaty…which means the Federation can’t do a thing about it.

The Fed may not be a threat, but wife Andi is. She doesn’t want a smuggler for a husband. Domestic bliss is a thing of the past.

Things get even rockier when two of the pride chiefs offer their daughters as concubines to the pride chief’s heir. It’ll take a great deal of sweet talk to make Andi agree to that!

Then there’s that smuggler who received Sin’s territories, and won’t give them up without a fight…

…and a new leaf is discovered on Sin’s empty family tree.

Overconfident as always, Sin’s sure he can handle it all…except for Andi. Bringing her around will be his biggest challenge.

6 comments:

Angela Adams said...

Enjoyed the post, Toni. Yes, it's both sad and heartbreaking for an author to kill off a character. I think that's because every author has a little bit of herself/himself in each of their characters.

Toni V.S. said...

I agree, Angela. Definitely.

GreenWillow said...

This is different. I thought that to "kill your darlings" didn't have anything to do with killing off characters but rather refers to editing out pieces of writing that you're very attached to, you think sound just great, but don't actually work with the story, or scene, or whatever.
But anyway, I think if we do kill off characters we have to be ruthless, at least toward out own feelings. The point is the effect their death has on the other characters, or something important to the story, right?

Nightingale said...

I thought the title did have to do with the meaning GreenWillow means but this post was far more interesting. Good series, BTW.

Toni V.S. said...

Actually, GreenWillow, you're correct...My title was "Death and the Main character..." The other title was added for me. Anyway, I supposed I could've "killed my darling" and edited the chapter to let Cash live but I decided not to.

Toni V.S. said...

Thanx, Linda. You and Sinbad have a long history, don't you?