As a new author, it’s difficult to restrain my enthusiasm when I am approached to discuss my books on radio or blog interviews/features. So when asked by a fantasy site to introduce my lead character Shevata, (shee-VAH-tah) I found it to be an exciting challenge, as this is the first time I’ve been asked to discuss this dark character of my creation enjoyed by many readers. When Goodreads nominated her for Most Memorable Female Assassin, I screamed with excitement, because, to a new author, that’s like winning a National Book Award (please, I’m not saying my writing should be a frontrunner for that).
Shevata’s journey began in my mind while recovering from my sister’s death, as I’ve written in previous articles. I knew I wanted to write a medieval fantasy/action/adventure story.
I asked myself what I liked most and the least of strong female lead characters, which are already abundant in fiction. My definition of a strong lead character is one that the reader remembers long after the book is closed.
Who is Shevata? She is a former child slave fighter, amongst thousands of children born and bred for the sole purpose to fight a centuries-long war for the city of Gastar against the Abbians, evil priests who conjured undead soldiers of slain people, creating an almost limitless army. Shevata was born in the latter years of the war, and was made an assassin instead of a soldier, so she rarely visited the battlefield. Instead she eliminated enemies inside the great city by direct order of the city’s leadership, a King at the time. She had parents, but were unidentified because all efforts were made to the ongoing war and the once-great city of Gastar was doomed to fall. Historical comparisons to her creation would be the numerous regimes that use children for soldiers, for example, the Nazi children of WWII or the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, just to name a couple.
What are Shevata’s abilities? I decided early what I didn’t want her doing. No magic, no clairvoyance/mind reading/ and no martial arts. She’s a small, underdeveloped, sixteen year old girl that doesn’t appear dangerous, which is a great advantage for an assassin. So how can one so small be such a competent killer? I added her one unique skill, moving objects with her mind (telekinesis). As a weapons expert, she can use anything from swords, arrows, and a kitchen skillet to the bad ends of her opponents. As she concentrates, the weapons are propelled far beyond her physical strength, making her a particular nasty adversary. She rarely misses her targets, and most strikes she makes count, thus making her a perfect killer. She can open locks without keys, climb walls with expertise, and move the earth to bury small buildings and slain enemies.
On a radio interview I was asked what was Shevata’s weakness. Physically, she has few. In the first two novellas, “Act of Redemption” and “Children of Discord,” her soul was removed as a curse for killing the last Abbian high priest without a death order, which demoted her to murderer. With no soul, she doesn’t bleed nor age. I know too well by taking martial arts myself that a small person cannot easily overtake a large person by hand-to-hand combat. So size does count in the Gastar Series. Shevata loses plenty of fights with opponents her size and larger. As a small spoiler, I’ll say she does re-gain her soul for the final two novellas. Readers have asked me how can I keep a story moving when a character becomes weaker. My answer is “Why does becoming a person make a character weaker?”
The main supporting character of the Gastar Series is Zermon, demon lord of Hell. His personality is based on my older brother, now a family joke. He met and imprisoned Shevata in hell after she rescued scores of living child soldiers held by him as a favor to the Abbians. She was captured and imprisoned by in hell for twenty years before her escape, so the two know each other quite well. This pair of powerful adversaries plays off one another to add an element of humor to the story; as some call it a “backward spin” of a huge demonic monster accusing a small teenage girl of barbarism.
What does Shevata want? She wants to grow up. A reader told me something very moving regarding my sister’s death. She said Shevata was “stuck” in an existence with no way out. Following the death of my sister, I felt “stuck” as well in my life, and with time, faith, family, and creative writing I found my way out. Shevata will find her own way out as well. Unlike many medieval stories, she doesn’t make a geographic journey. Her path lies within herself, and the challenge is for her to change everything she’s ever known or learned to become a completely different person who matures, discovering the true life of love and family.
So I welcome readers to meet Shevata in my Gastar novellas. These are not romantic cuddly stories; Shevata’s tactics rival the brutality of her enemies. But her feelings are real, she sees people around her living a normal life, and yearns to do the same. But she knows her enemies from the dark past and her intentions towards them are not forgiving. War, not vengeance is her primary motivator.