Characters are the heart and soul of any story. For all that my stories are very plot driven, they always begin with a character (or, more likely, two characters arguing). There’s a part of me that would like to hoard my characters forever. But nothing beats having a reader fall just as much in love with a character as I am. Sharing my characters is always a special joy.
Today, I would like to give you a special, behind-the-scenes introduction to Dreamlander’s cast of characters. “Casting” characters, à la the movies, is one of my guilty pleasures. Aside from just being plain out fun, it also offers the bona fide writing benefit of a real human being against which characters have to measure up, as well as built-in inspiration.
Chris is our daring hero who wakes up one morning in the world of his dreams, thinks he’s going crazy, and accidentally resurrects a revenge-obsessed warlord with the power to bring down both worlds.
My favorite thing about Chris: I love that he’s an ordinary guy. He’s someone you might meet walking down the street. But, more than that, I love the extraordinariness he tries to hide under his surface. I love how quick he is to jump in and defend others (sometimes without thinking things through first), and I love his kindness to others.
From the book:
Chris stopped short and turned around. Parry skidded to a halt and leaned back to keep from bumping into him.
Chris caught the kid’s arm so he wouldn’t topple. “Where would Allara usually be this time of the evening?” He doubted she had taken his advice and stayed in bed like a good patient.
Parry screwed up his face. “You know, all this talk we’ve been hearing . . . you don’t think it’s true, do you?”
“Of course it’s not true! You honestly believe a Searcher would betray you?”
Parry shrugged. “Well . . . I don’t, you know. But there are lots of folks what’d like to blame her for stuff.”
Chris gave him a shake. “Don’t say that to my face again. Prove to me you’re man enough to stand against slander, no matter whose or how many mouths it’s spewing out of. You got me?”
Parry’s head bobbed up and down. “Yes, sir. I don’t believe it, not a word. I was just asking because I wanted to be sure.”
“I’m sure. Is that good enough for you?”
Another head bob. “Yes. Absolutely. Now I’m sure too.” He cleared his throat. “Um, if she’s not in her quarters, perhaps she’s with Lord Thyra.” He pointed down the hall.
Chris released him and turned away.
Parry exhaled audibly, then called after him, “Your clothes are all dusty. Don’t you want to change them before dinner?”
“No.” He glanced back as he walked away. “Parry.”
“If anybody says any of that garbage to you again, you break his nose.”
“Um, okay. Unless he’s bigger’n me.”
Who I cast as Chris: Chris went through about five different “casting calls,” depending on the various aspects of personality and attitude I was focusing on. But if I had to cast him
right now, I would go with Chris Pine. He’s got that edge of saucy attitude, and his appearance is close to how I visualized my Chris.
Appointed Searcher of Lael before she was born, the Princess Allara’s life has been defined by her duties of finding and guiding Gifted like Chris. She blames herself for the crimes of the Gifted prior to Chris, who went rogue and was eventually executed. She is determined to make amends now that Chris’s arrival has given her a second chance.
My favorite thing about Allara: She’s such a wonderfully complicated juxtaposition of traits. On the one hand, she’s absolutely physically fearless. She’ll dive into battle without a second thought, but, inside, she’s this knotted mass of fears and doubts. She wants the strength to believe in something greater than herself, but she can’t make herself let go and trust.
From the book:
He walked to the end of balcony, across from her, and tried on a smile. “There you are. What are you doing out here?”
She held one arm out, and her long scarlet sleeve spread in the breeze like a wing. “Trying to fly away. I came out to be alone.”
“I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“You didn’t intrude. I knew you were coming.” The dark blue of her bodice and skirt blended with the night. Her face was still pale, but the gaunt look of pain had faded. “I can feel you, you know.”
She spared a tiny smile. “In my head. I feel your presence. That’s how the Searchers are able to find the Gifted.”
He tried to absorb that. “What’s it like?”
“Different.” She tilted her head back and forth as if trying to think of a way to explain it. “It’s like sharing your mind with someone. I can sense an essence of who you are. Sometimes I catch hints of what you’re feeling, thinking.”
Instinctively, he tried to damp his thoughts and pull them away from her. She laughed softly, and he tried harder.
“I’m sorry.” She sounded like she meant it. “I shouldn’t have told you.”
He gave up and released his thoughts. If she’d been reading his mind all this time, it hardly mattered if he couldn’t hide it from her now.
“Seems like that puts you at an unfair advantage,” he said.
“Perhaps I need an advantage.” When she smiled, her exhaustion showed through the cracks.
Who I cast as Allara: Save for a brief consideration of Madeleine Stowe, Kate Beckinsale has always fulfilled my vision of Allara. Tough, lovely, and a little wistful.
Orias is a Cherazii, a race of noble (if slightly savage) warriors, who cling to their traditions with a fierce honor. Orias is a Keeper of the Orimere, the dreamstone that allows the Gifted to move physical objects between the worlds. He sacrifices his commitment to his time-honored role in order to protect his people from the threat of genocide, then finds himself adrift in guilt, unsure if he made the right choice or which side of the war he should be fighting on.
My favorite thing about Orias: I have a thing for tortured warriors, and Orias definitely fits that bill. I love his ferocity in battle (helped out by the Cherazii’s mental battle fire, which gives them speed and power and delays their reaction to pain), but, even more than that, I love his dedication to caring for and protecting his two Rievers, a midget-sized race who live in symbiosis with the Cherazii.
From the book:
Orias turned for a closer look. If the new Gifted was a Guardsman, that might put things in a more reassuring light. The skill and dedication of the King’s Guard almost rivaled the Cherazii’s. He took the triangle and ran his finger over the center medallion. “At least if you get into trouble, you’ll know how to handle yourself.”
“Why? What do Guardsmen do?” Chris asked.
“They’re the king’s crack troops.” Orias looked him up and down. “You’re not in uniform, so you’ve probably been discharged. All Laeler men are required to train with the army for a two-week period out of every year so they’ll be ready to respond if the kingdom comes under attack. But the Guard is the elite.” He let the tiniest of grins escape. “I thought you
looked like a fighter.”
Chris shook his head. “I have a feeling fights around here are a lot different from the ones I’m used to.”
“If you get into trouble, blank your mind. Let your body take over. It’ll know what to do.”
“That’s mighty comforting.”
Orias handed the Guard badge back to Pitch, who bound it around his upper arm. He had to wrap the thongs twice and hold one end with his teeth while he tied it off.
Orias turned back. “Do the same with the horse. Listen to your body.” He mounted slowly, so the Gifted could watch and learn.
Raz scrambled up behind him, but Pitch stood waiting for Chris. He was quite enamored with his new prize. No doubt, he had completely forgotten Chris would be his servant only until the Searcher claimed him.
The pony didn’t budge, and the Gifted managed to haul himself aboard without too much difficulty. Pitch clambered up Chris’s leg to stand on the horse’s hindquarters and rest his hands lightly on Chris’s shoulders.
“Kick him,” he advised.
Chris did, and the pony lumbered a few steps.
Orias urged his own horse forward before he could change his mind about leaving. But he couldn’t stop a long backwards glance. If the Koraudians did attack, his one lone sword could hardly make much of a difference. He told himself that twice over. But he didn’t believe it. The strength and power of a single Cherazim had turned the tale in too many battles to count.
He needed to be here with his people.
He needed to be on the road, taking the Gifted far away.
Two impossibly conflicting duties. He had to choose one or the other, so he turned away and rode into the trees.
Who I cast as Orias: Orias was a tough cast, since he’s not exactly human. I based the Cherazii people on both Norse and Native American cultures, and the image that flashed in my mind most often when writing Orias (especially his battle scenes) was Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans.
Thirty years before the beginning of our story, our villain extraordinaire was Sovereign of Koraud. Executed for his collusion in the previous Gifted’s treachery, he prophesied he would return from the dead to take his vengeance. Refined, handsome, and savvy, he’s a formidable enemy—especially now that he’s a little bonkers.
My favorite thing about Mactalde: Despite his bad guy status, I’ve always been rather fond of Mactalde. As someone fighting to conquer his own fate, he appeals to me. Of course, that wicked twinkle in his eye as he’s outwitting everyone is also as fun as it is frustrating.
From the book:
Always their eyes returned to the clump of trees behind which Mactalde had retired. Occasionally, they glanced at Chris as well. But a crazy dreamer just wasn’t as interesting as someone returned from the dead.
A man, tall and broad, stepped into the clearing. He wore a knee-length leather coat, buckled up the front with half a dozen silver closures. A snowy undershirt gleamed through slits in the sleeves. Suede breeches, boots stretched above his knees, and a rapier dangling at his side completed the picture. Only the short trim of his tawny hair and beard spoke of another world.
Chris sat up. Mactalde seemed to have grown six feet. In Chicago, he had been an ordinary man. Now he was a conqueror, a general. He exuded power.
Harrison Garnett’s words crackled through his head. Mactalde will destroy you if he finds you! Destroy Lael! A fingertip of cold touched the back of his neck. What if the old man had been right?
Behind him, Raz exhaled in a whoosh. “Sweet Garowai in the sky, it is him.”
“Yalarin pitish sé,” Pitch whispered.
Mactalde made his way through his men, shaking hands and slapping backs. The troops parted before him. They touched thumb and forefinger to their closed eyes and slid them down their faces in some kind of salute. Mactalde accepted it as if he’d done it all his life. Evidently, he had, up until twenty years ago.
When he reached Chris, he clapped his hands in front of him with a smile. His eyes were bright, ecstatic almost, like someone jacked up on crack.
“Well.” He raised his voice. “Mr. Redston. How do you like your dream now?”
Who I cast as Mactalde: Who else but Hugh Jackman? Handsome, refined, but with an undercurrent of brutality when needed, he fit my needs for Mactalde from the very beginning.
For more casting fun, be sure to check out my new Pinterest board of characters, which includes the entire cast.
And don’t forget to vote for which prize you’d like to win in the Dreamlander Launch Party Grand Prize Drawing on December 2!