Reader reaction to the protagonist of a story will not only influence whether they like a book or not, it can also make or break the fortunes of that book; maybe not in terms of the critical response, but certainly in the commercial sense. This is an observation I was very conscious of while writing my first novel, The Exercise Of Vital Powers. I realised early on that my protagonist, Kayden Jayta, was a character who many readers would struggle to get behind. In fact, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if most of the people who end up disliking the book do so primarily on the basis of their dislike for Kayden.
To say that life hasn’t always been kind to me would be an understatement. At the risk of sounding like someone suffering from a persecution complex, my life has been tormenting me mercilessly for the past quarter of a century. What kept me going through all the tribulations was convincing myself there was nothing I could do about the crap life throws my way, and that these things happened to test me. Inevitably, this coping mechanism couldn’t continue to work forever. Sadly, I am only human; I can only endure so much before I eventually break, and by the end of last November I had reached my breaking point. I struggled on as best as I could into early December, because I had commitments I needed to honour. But once I’d done so, I had to admit defeat; life had finally got the better of me and I couldn’t cope with things as they were.
To varying degrees, many authors, particularly those who are genuinely passionate about their craft, invariably put a lot of themselves into their writing, whether it be in terms of their personality informing their characterisation, or their life experiences influencing their plots. I’ve never been one of these writers. I have always consciously gone out of my way to avoid putting any aspect of myself into my writing. There are a couple of reasons for this: first of all, I am a very private person, so the idea of incorporating any part of myself or my life into a story is one I could never be comfortable with; opening up and sharing personal things about myself with anyone, even indirectly, is something that doesn’t come easily to me, and (with one notable exception) it never will. Secondly, I’m a boring person with a boring life which doesn’t really lend itself to writing exciting stories.
It’s been very quiet on the blogging front over the last month, even though I actually have several blog posts written and ready to be posted; I’m just waiting for the right time to post them. In the meantime, I’ve decided to kick-start things again with a post about Kayden Jayta, who is (for those of you who don’t know) the central character of my novel The Exercise Of Vital Powers. It’s an opportunity for me to provide some insights, not just into the character, but my reasons for making certain creative decisions about her and her story.