Here’s something that might surprise you, given that I’m a straight male sci-fi author in my early thirties: of all the heroines I’ve written, including hot space pirates, buxom models and nubile warrior women, by far and away the most popular with readers is Grace Peters, a snarky deep space prospector approaching retirement age. Grace (from Sparks in Cosmic Dust) is only a supporting character, and doesn’t even have her own POV, but I’ve received more glowing feedback about her than any character I’ve ever written.
“Why is that?” I hear you ask.
Well, I can tell you why I think that is. No big secret really. It’s an author having fun. Throwing caution to the wind. Having a character speak her mind, often, and at others’ expense is a storytelling elixir for me as a reader and a writer. You know the character I’m talking about—most romance stories have at least one—the sassy best friend, the put-upon relative having a bad day, or the snarky heroine who continually puts her foot in it.
She’s someone you cut loose with, and she’s usually the most fun. For me, there’s something instantly humanizing about a character who resorts to irreverent humour or pithy put-downs instead of facing a situation glumly. If there’s an element of world-weariness in there too, well, that’s just my favourite heroine in a nutshell.
One of the best writers of this character type is Sloane Taylor, whose erotic romance heroines are an absolute treat. We collaborated on an erotic sci-fi novel a couple of years back—Claire de Lune—and I learned a lot from her about blending humour and character to make a scene sparkle. If any of that’s rubbed off onto my Carina books, I’m a happy space camper. Incidentally, two minor characters from CDL have received the full-on snarky heroine treatment in my SF series here at Carina. Grace Peters is one. The other, starring in this week’s release Cyber Sparks, is here to introduce herself (via the blurb):
My name is Allegra Mondebay, and this is the story of my last days on Earth…
Unlike my sparsely populated home, on Earth everything and everyone is plugged in. As a blacklisted model who needs to reboot my career, I can no longer resist the ultimate in virtual-reality networking: the omnipod. At first, altering the sights, sounds and scents around me seems harmless. Then I hear the voice.
Do not adjust your headset. You are in danger…
He says I must help him warn the public about the perils of the omnipod. I think he’s just a hacker—until innocent people start dying, and the police want to hold me responsible. Now, I’m on the run in a stolen shuttle, trying to figure out why he needs me. And if I don’t do as he says, he’ll kill the woman I love.
One of the things I wanted to avoid when writing Cyber Sparks was a dystopia. Like many of you, I absolutely love The Hunger Games; and I’m very fond of Philip K. Dick, not to mention cyberpunk in general. But I’m also kind of optimistic about our future. The free sharing of information we currently enjoy (hi, internet) is a big part of that. Corruption at every level is becoming increasingly difficult to hide. One day, when governments are frightened of the people, the future will be in our hands. What will we make of it?
I had the idea for Cyber Sparks during a bus ride home from work, when almost every single passenger was either texting or chatting on a mobile phone or reading an e-reader or surfing the web on an i-phone. Human body language? Zilch. Digital language? Off the scale. It’s a strange paradox, to be at once social and anti-social. Many’s the time I’ve grumbled quietly when a friend has cut off his face to face conversation with me to answer an unimportant phone call or a text or a freaking tweet. You’ve made the effort to go and meet him in person, but noooo, you play second fiddle to LOL and smiley face and inane callers still at home in their pajamas.
Does it irritate you when that happens? Or is it just me?
Allegra’s omnipod lets her do anything, buy anything, be anyone, speak to anyone—but still she feels cut off. Pretty soon, she’ll wish she was cut off.
Enough to make anyone snarky, if you ask me.
EPIC Award winner Robert Appleton is a multi-published author of science fiction, steampunk and historical fiction. Soccer and kayaking are his favourite outdoor activities. He has travelled far but loves the comfort of reading Victorian adventure books or watching movies at home. His mind is somewhat mercurial. His inspiration is the night sky.
Author website: http://www.robertappleton.co.uk
Goodreads author page: http://bit.ly/nm9r5G
Twitter ID: @robertappleton