I am pleased to have Loren Rhoads as a guest poster on the blog today. Loren was kindly willing to share the origins of one of the characters from her new release, The Dangerous Type, part military sci-fi, part adventure space opera. Read on to see why Publishers Weekly mentioned its “well choreographed action.”
Crafting a Character
by Loren Rhoads
A well-rounded character draws from many inspirations. Raena Zacari, the reformed Imperial assassin, in my new trilogy was born in ballet class.
I studied ballet as a child. I started the year I entered first grade – in a studio in the basement of the teacher’s house – and continued at a different studio until I went away to university at 19. One of the girls I danced with got accepted into the corps at Joffrey Ballet. Another became a ballet teacher at our studio. All of us in my class were serious about our lessons. We danced as many nights a week as we could afford.
Raena Zacari, main character of The Dangerous Type and its sequels, came directly out of those dance classes. Ballerinas are strong, fierce, and completely unafraid of pain. If something hurts, you suck it up: because if you can’t do the combination, someone else will take your part.
I conceived of Raena years before River Tam combined dancing and killing in Firefly, long before I knew Natasha Romanoff had gone to ballet assassin school. Raena’s first appearance in print was in 1986 in a story called “Claustrophobia” in a zine called simply Anthology.
Misty Copeland’s Under Armor video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA
I was never built like a dancer. Even in the earliest picture of me in costume, I’m thick in the thighs and it’s clear my hips are going to be wide. Still, I loved the narrow, androgynous bodies of my dancemates. Raena’s shape is a tribute to them.
Raena’s size – barely five feet tall in a galaxy of much bigger creatures – is a direct tribute to my vertically challenged female friends. At 5’4”, I’m average height for an American woman, but I still feel dwarfed by most men. My friends who stand under five feet make up the difference with heels or platform shoes, so Raena wears – and fetishizes – her high heels.
I wondered: what if high-heeled shoes didn’t mimic weapons, but actually were weapons? What if your heels were steel instead of chrome? What if they were sharpened? What if your kick had a dancer’s power behind it? What if you could put out an android’s eye with your heel?
And what if my character had spent the early years of her life dressing in black, because black doesn’t show the blood? After she came out of solitary confinement in the dark, what would she wear? As hard as it is for me to imagine personally, Raena is tired of black. She plays with wearing poisonously bright colors or a mirrored cat suit because she’s done creeping around in the darkness.
So that’s the genesis of Raena Zacari and her fashion choices. From the outside, she may seem to fall into the cliché of the tiny fierce warrior waif like Alice from Resident Evil or Buffy Summers, but she’s more directly inspired by Princess Leia, if the princess liked to kill people with her hands. Milla Jovovich actually stands 5’9”, while Carrie Fisher is only 5’1”. The amazing Misty Copeland is 5’2”, plus the height of her pointe shoes. She might be a little tall for Raena as I imagined her in the books, but I wouldn’t want to tell her she couldn’t play the part.
Loren Rhoads is the author of the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy, published by Night Shade Books. The Dangerous Type is out now, followed by Kill By Numbers on September 1 and the conclusion, No More Heroes, on November 3. She is the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of As Above, So Below and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two.
Find out more about the trilogy on it’s home page: http://lorenrhoads.com/writing/the-dangerous-type/
Get your copy of The Dangerous Type below: