Guest post: Adrian Faulkner on “How I came to Have An 82 Year Old Protagonist”

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Adrian Faulkner is an ex-Pop Culture journalist who put his reporting on ice to devote more time to his fiction writing. To good effect, as he published his first novel The Four Realms with Anarchy Books last December. I’ve been following Adrian on Twitter for ages and when he approached me to review his first novel and a guest post I was happy to say yes. My review of The Four Realms will be up on Friday and today Adrian is here with a post on how he found himself writing about an octogenarian female magic user.

How I came to Have An 82 Year Old Protagonist

The Four Realms is a story long in the telling. Its origins lay way back in the late 1990’s. Back then we were still formulating our view of the 1st Star Wars prequel and wondering if a film called The Matrix was better. We lived under a computer apocalypse where come the year 2000 everything from our banks to the water supply would fail due to a date bug. And on our televisions a guy called Joss Whedon was making unmissable television with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It’s easy now to look back and see how many of those things influenced the story.

The pace of Star Wars has taught me that, more often than not, less is more, that you can’t slow the story down just to show off something cool; Buffy showed me that people were willing to accept strong female protagonists who could be every bit as exciting as their male equivalents; And a recent rewatch of the Matrix movies made me realise how my favourite character had always been Mr Smith.

The danger, though, is that influences can become little more than thinly veiled fanfic, that the characters could be interchanged with their influences and have no impact on the story.

In creating the characters of The Four Realms, I had this very much in mind, and spent considerable time using those influences as springboards rather than templates. And so whereas Mr Smith is smart, slow and logical, Mr West works fast, dresses scruffily and abandons logic; where Buffy is young, so Maureen is old. In doing so, these character s outgrow their influences into something unique.

The idea for Maureen originally hit me as a joke. “I don’t want a Buffy clone,” I’d said to myself. “What’s the complete opposite to Buffy?” The thought of a little old lady doing Kung-fu and kicking ass seemed a little outlandish even to me… but wielding magic? That was a possibility.

I’d also grown up surrounded by old people. My parents ran a retirement home during my early years and I remember the residents with mixed feelings. There were those that were loving and welcoming and those who got grouchy at having to share their home with a kid. Those residents are so vivid to me that the creation of Maureen was an easy one and she remains one of the easiest characters for me to write.

Too often in Fantasy we hear about the young farm boy who by choice or circumstance goes off to find their destiny. But what about those who feel that opportunity have passed them by? The more I considered Maureen the more I felt there was a story to tell, a story of someone who thinks their chance to matter in the world has long gone.

And so when we first see Maureen, she’s a prisoner in her own home, frightened that any visitor might discover the cellar and its gateway to another world. Her heating doesn’t work properly, her employers are about to shut down the gateway and throw her onto the streets and her neighbours are driving her nuts. She’s the last person you think of taking the mantle of hero, but that’s what she does. She’s not going to use violence to solve every solution but by giving her the tiniest amount of magic power means she’s not entirely without strength when the situation calls for it.

That makes her interesting to write and hopefully interesting to read. And if few people see the influence of Buffy on her character, then I guess I’ve done a good job.

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