Today’s post is a treat. A guest post written by John Claude Bemis, writing about his latest novel, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky. I will post my own full review of the book soon, and you’ll get a good idea of what it’s about from his post, but I will say for now that I really enjoyed this moving, thoughtful book. It’s hard to categorize–a good choice for fantasy lovers, animal book lovers, kids who enjoy family stories, and even younger fans of dystopian novels. What stood out to me was how strong the characters were, how “real” their emotions felt to me, and I think John’s post below will help explain why. When a writer loves their characters, it’s natural for us as readers to love them as well.
John Claude Bemis writes:
I’m a nice guy. Really! I snuggle up with my daughter and read Mo Willem books to her. I don’t bark at my students when they talk out of turn. More than that, I’m always there for them with hugs and kind words.
But get me behind my laptop and I can be downright mean. A writer has to be mean to his main character. It’s a funny thing. You grow to love your main character, you desperately want him or her to succeed, but to make for an exciting story, you have to throw every terrible thing their way…and enjoy doing it. Sadistic, isn’t it?
The main character of my new novel The Prince Who Fell from the Sky is a bear named Casseomae. She’s an outcast among the other forest animals because all her cubs have died at birth. The animals whisper that she’s cursed or a witch. Casseomae longs for cubs of her own. She’s a sweet old thing, but tough and powerful and scary when she needs to be. I deeply love her.
So why did I have to be so mean to her? Why not fill the forest with generations of her cubs? Why not spare her from her lonely existence? Because she wouldn’t be a very interesting character, that’s why.
When the idea for Casseomae’s character came together in my imagination, I wanted something good for her. I wanted her to find happiness. I knew if I gave it to her too easily, I’d have a sappy, boring story. So I gave her first the possibility of happiness in the form of a human boy.
Casseomae lives in a future where there are no people left on Earth. All the animals of the forest however have legends about us and most aren’t too pretty. When a spaceship crashes and the lone survivor emerges, Casseomae is faced with a choice. Kill the boy, as she knows the ruling wolves of the forest would demand. Or protect him from the animals that want humans to stay gone. She decides to protect the boy, but I didn’t give her the happiness of a cub yet. She has to earn that through the story.
Being a writer is like being one of those trickster gods from myth. Those gods who stir up trouble, up-end people’s lives, take away what they love most. But in the end, those trickster gods bring a lot of good to their victims. I might have to begin a story being mean to my characters, but it’s for their own good. I want Casseomae to grow and transform. I want her to be happy. But I can’t just give that to her. That would be boring. She has to work for it.
And work for it she does. In The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, Casseomae faces unbelievable odds to protect her “cub.” And I love her all the more for it! I hope you will too.
John Claude Bemis is the author of The Clockwork Dark, a fantasy adventure trilogy that takes place in a mythical America. The first book, The Nine Pound Hammer (Random House), was described as “a steampunk collision of heroes, mermaids, pirates, and good old-fashioned Americana” by Booklist and was a New York Public Library Best Children’s Book 2009 for Reading and Sharing. The trilogy continues with The Wolf Tree and The White City and has been described as “original and fresh” and “a unique way of creating fantasy.” His new book The Prince Who Fell from the Sky was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month for May 2012. John lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with his wife and daughter. http://www.johnclaudebemis.com