Today’s guest is fantasy author Lane Robins! She is the author of two fantasy novels inspired by the Regency era, Maledicte and Kings and Assassins, as well as four urban fantasy books in the Shadows Inquiries series as Lyn Benedict. While these two sets of books are very different from each other, the main reasons I’ve enjoyed reading both are the same: the flawed, human characters and the fact that neither shies away from darkness. The first Shadows Inquiries book, Sins & Shadows, is one of the stronger first books in an urban fantasy series I’ve read, and I particularly liked the inclusion of mythology and godly influence. Since I was rather fond of it, I’m happy to have her here to share three of the characters who influenced the development of her heroine in Shadows Inquiries.
Every character has her own sort of DNA, built not from the fictional parents a writer gives her, but the characters that writers have incorporated deep into our psyche.
Sylvie Shadows, my lead character in the Shadows Inquiries series, gained her DNA from three very distinct characters.
Mercedes Lackey is probably the writer I owe my writing career to, given that I was slaving along, trying very dutifully to write as my mentors demanded—pared down prose, adjective-free, adverb-free, smother-all-the-emotions, make-the-reader-work-for-everything prose—then I stumbled on Lackey’s books and said, this was what I wanted to do. Her writing felt free and fluid.
And of course, there was the character who captivated me: Diana Tregarde, guardian witch ready to face malignant occult forces. A tough but amiable heroine who could and did do it all: magic, martial arts, shoot a gun, drive like a demon, give useful advice to people in need, write popular novels, and fight for social justice. She was a superhero in a leotard and jeans.
The Diana Tregarde books were proto urban fantasy—still labeled horror & dark fantasy, but definitely moving into the urban fantasy territory. They were a mixture of detective story and magical malfeasance.
Then there was Tanya Huff’s Vicki Nelson. Oh, Vicki. If there were any single influence on Sylvie Shadows, it would be Vicki Nelson, heroine of the Blood books. I adored Diana Tregarde, don’t get me wrong, but in so many ways, Vicki Nelson felt like a weird and successful rebuttal to Diana.
Diana could do it all—take care of her friends and protect the world and practice witchcraft and martial arts and oh, yeah, make a living as a prolific romance writer, and still have time to date Andre the vampire. Lackey describes her as looking like a dancer, and Diana does dance through these books, light and confident. She knows her place in the world and never doubts it.
Vicki Nelson, on the other hand, is an ex-cop who had to give up her job due to health reasons, desperately trying to make a go of her new career as a private investigator. She’s abrasive and disinclined to take the change in her life well, juggling family and friends with variable degrees of success. Like Diana, she ends up dating a vampire (though also dating a police officer, go Vicki!), but in these books, the vampire is the romance writer which actually makes sense—given the long hours of his nights. Vicki’s life is cluttered and complicated and messy. Vicki has something to prove.
Diana Tregarde was a superhero, but Vicki Nelson….
I realized when Vicki came around that there was something I could love more than a witch fighting supernatural evil—a regular human, a human with a distinct weakness, mustering up the determination and courage to do the same. I loved that. It hits me in one of my happy spots—the idea that humans have the capacity to do amazing things. When it came to putting Sylvie on the page, I gave her a tiny, supernatural edge—a tinge of something not quite human in her bloodline—because unlike Diana and Vicki, Sylvie wasn’t going to get a vampire boyfriend of her own.
The last character that left DNA in Sylvie’s make-up may sound like a strange one. Diana Tregarde and Vicki Nelson are urban fantasy heroines after all; the lines drawn between Sylvie Shadows and them are direct.
But then there is Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple. A diffident, fluttery spinster arguably dependent on other people’s good will. Sylvie is brash, outspoken, often rude, fiercely independent. Nothing in common, right?
Except Miss Marple is also observant, decisive, intelligent, and has a frankly terrifying moral rigidity. Poirot, Agatha Christie’s other protagonist, might occasionally let killers off the hook if the person they murdered “deserved” it. Not Miss Marple. There is right and there is wrong and there is wickedness, which must be rooted out. She’s merciless in the cause of Justice, calls herself Nemesis, and means it without any irony. Miss Marple is a force of nature. I loved the Miss Marple books. How could I resist letting her influence Sylvie? (I’m certain that Miss Marple would be dismayed at Sylvie’s actions. Dismayed, though not shocked. Miss Marple is unflappable.)
So Sylvie was born into print with a rigid black and white view of the world. I’ve taken great joy in blurring her world view into greys, but there’s still that cold, certain core: the wicked must be punished. That’s all Miss Marple.
Behind these great characters are three equally impressive authors. Mercedes Lackey has written or put a hand to over a hundred novels, spawned multiple popular series, and given us insanely memorable characters. Tanya Huff has written books all over the map: urban fantasy, second world fantasy, science fiction, humorous, serious, everything in between. Agatha Christie… well, she’s one of the best selling novelists in the world. Her mysteries are beautifully structured, and her characterization is compelling.
Three amazing authors.
Three amazing characters.
If you haven’t met these characters yet, go ye forth and read.
About Lane Robins:
Lane Robins was born in Miami, Florida, the daughter of two scientists, and grew up as the first human member of their menagerie. She attended the Odyssey workshop, both of the CSSF workshops, and has a BA in Creative Writing. As Lyn Benedict, she writes the urban fantasy Shadows Inquiries series: Sins & Shadows, Ghosts & Echoes, Gods & Monsters, and Lies & Omens. Her website is lanerobins.com.