Thursday, June 26, 2008


So, I was reading an article on the RWR by Julie Rowe about voice, and one of the things mentioned was core themes and stories. Julie says she writes books concerned with healing--physical and emotional. So I started thinking, what are the core themes of my books? What do they have in common?

I looked at a list of my Cat Marsters books, and tallied things up. Out of twenty titles, six have themes of Acceptance, five of Redemption, three of Second Chances, two of Transformation, and a whopping ten have themes of Independence (I didn't tally the Sophie books I write as Kate Johnson, since they have similar themes--but Independence is definitely one of them).

I thought more about this. How many of my books feature protagonists who are Outsiders? Well--let's start with Sophie, since she's the most useless spy in the history of espionage, and never quite feels she fits in. Luke, while he's a fantastic spy, is not the warmest and cuddliest of guys, and never quite feels at home in friendly company.

In my Spaceport story, the heroine is a socialite who prefers the army to her gilded life--and then after she's forced on the run and disguised as a cheap whore, doesn't really want to go back. Pretty much all my Sundown books (and there are twelve now!) feature outsiders. Of course, that's more common when you're writing paranormals, but what I mean is that my characters don't fit in even in their own worlds. Masika is the scarred, ex-concubine vampire who was cast out by her Master; Elek is a loup-garou who isn't in control of his wolf form; Con is a wizard without much power, entirely at the beck-and-call of a set of mad faeries. And that's just the first three. Ruarc is a high fae who hates his Queen and Court; Reaver is virtually a sociopath. Sofie is a werewolf who doesn't believe in werewolves!

Then there's Almost Human, and when I thought about this book--which has a very independent heroine, too--I realised there was another theme in my book. Denial--or perhaps defiance is a better term. Chance is in denial of her heritage in a major way (she's also a courtesan--you may notice another theme here). In the sequel, which I've just finished writing, her cousin Kett comes to the fore: the most defiant character I've ever written. She's not comfortable with company, rejects the title her father bestows on her, can't keep a normal job, tens to pick fights with both people and massive scary predators when she's angry--oh yes, and is the only known shapeshifter in her world. She's pretty much a textbook Outsider.

So those are my themes, as I see them. Outsiders and Independence. Even books I've written in different genders tend to come out with a similar character type, like in the Untied Kingdom, where my hero is an officer promoted from the ranks in an army where commissions are still purchased by the aristocracy, and Eve is a former popstar now living in a council flat. Oh yes, and she's from a parallel universe. I guess that's taking a theme and making it explicit!

1 comment:

  1. I like redemption as a theme. I have a lot of characters who live bad lives or have bad pasts. So fun to write. I noticed whilst brainstorming some ideas the other day that I tend to go for really damaged protagonists - drug addicts and alcoholics seem to crop up again and again. I like seeing characters come to terms with their dark pasts and use them to accomplish good things.

    Or not. Sometimes they're more fun when they don't want to be redeemed.