Like all first-time authors, I’ve got a stack of unpublishable, half-finished, quarter-finished, and barely started novels laying around. Some were typed out when I was still just a little girl, those are in boxes somewhere. Others are stored on floppy discs that no longer have anything to load them with. Yet more are on the old harddrives to skeletal computers clustered in a closet. There are about twenty in total, ranging from “totally finished but written by an eleven year old” to “a really interesting 2000 word first chapter that I never touched again.” And they’re all very different! Murder mysteries, political thrillers, high-seas adventures, romance novels… they’re all at least a little bit fantasy, but otherwise, they’re all across the spectrum.
But despite how different they all are, there are a couple of universal threads that seem to go through all of them. Here are some I noticed kept appearing, whether I meant to include them or not!
1. The Tough, Get-Things-Done Redhead.
In the adult world, other women approach me just to tell me how beautiful my hair colour is. But things were a whole lot different back when I was little and my red hair got pointed out by my peers for entirely different reasons! Maybe that’s why the iron-hearted, smart, unconventionally attractive ginger lady started appearing in my writing right from the start.
Is she in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? Yes! Officer Maris Dawson, the police supervisor who makes sure Olivia Faraday doesn’t burn the world down looking for killers, is this character to a t.
2. The Mild-Mannered Male Lead Surrounded by Women Way Stronger Than Him.
Speaking of childhood grievances — why is there always only one girl? Only one girl smurf. Only one girl muppet. Only one girl transformer. Even female characters I loved and identified with seemed to be the only ones in their universes! Gadget from the Rescue Rangers, Maeve from The Adventures of Sinbad, and Princess Leia from Star Wars stick out like sore thumbs. So maybe I was trying to desconstruct something when, right from the first book I wrote when I was barely more than a baby, I had one sweet-tempered guy standing in a tidal wave of powerful women.
Is he in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? But of course! He’s the narrator!
3. The System the World Depends on That’s Fallen/Falling Apart.
I don’t even know where this came from. Maybe I just had an early start learning about how important recycling is. But it just keeps cropping up in my writing: the unsupportable status quo which continues long after the time to safely reform it has passed because future collapse is preferable to immediate change.
Is it in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant: Oh, yes! And in a far more prominent position than I’ve ever put it before! This very thing has caused a recession that’s become a depression when the book opens!
4. The Conspiracy Looming Behind It All.
I’m an odd duck. I don’t think there’s a single conspiracy theory out there that I actually believe in. But by golly, do I love them. Chemtrails, faked moon landings, and secret cities on Mars… they’re definitely not true, but wouldn’t the world be a more interesting place if they were? Conspiracy narratives aren’t what they used to be. With more and more average citizens believing them, they do more harm than good. Still, I can’t help my love.
Is it in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? Can I ever resist? The answer is no, I can’t. There’s defintely a big ole conspiracy (or two, or three) lurking in the background.
5. The Cast of Thousands.
I adore the cast of thousands. I cut my teeth on the doorstopper fantasy epic and it’s always been my instinct to pack my books with characters. It’s a sickness! The thing is, that’s one big reason why it’s taken me so long to finish a novel. It’s hard to plot all those people together, and my work has always collapsed inward!
Is it in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? No! I broke my curse and forced myself to keep a small, insular cast. I’m finally free of the cast of thousands… for now. A few new faces join the fray in the sequel, and it’s getting a bit unwieldy…