This is a story about Rupert and Julia. Prince and Princess, respectively.
Growing up, I was enamoured with fantasy as a genre more than any other. I played text adventure games on our fancy Tandy TRS-80 computer (haha) back in the early ’80s, and graphic fantasy/adventure games. I read every fantasy story I could get my hands on, including some rather dodgy Dungeons & Dragons Choose Your Own Adventure-type books. When I was 13, my oldest sister, René, loaned me her copy of BLUE MOON RISING by Simon R. Green, thinking I might like it.
René had this impressive floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in her bedroom that I’d sneak in to stare at when she was out of the house. It was overflowing with fantasy and science-fiction and it enthralled me. So when she picked one out she thought I’d like, I devoured it. I remember being deliciously terrified by the creatures and situations, and loving how it took the genre and turned it on its head, back when not many writers were doing that (though now it seems commonplace).
Since that time, 23 years ago (oh my goodness…), I have read that book more times than any other. Rupert and Julia became close companions, as book characters do, like Harry and Ron and Hermione, Frodo, Aragorn, and so many others. Rupert and Julia went off to live in disguise in the HAWK & FISHER books and I remember being so freakin’ SURE they were Rupert and Julia, though Green didn’t explicitly say. He began dropping hints through the series, though, and I was so thrilled when Green released BEYOND THE BLUE MOON in 2000, fully admitting that H&F were Rupert and Julia, and bringing them back to the Forest Castle from BLUE MOON RISING. I couldn’t believe it. Old characters revisited, old settings rediscovered. It was a dream come true.
I thought that was the end of it, but lo and behold, Mr. Green has just released ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, 14 years after the last book. I finished it last week while sick in bed. While no book in the series will ever surpass BMR for me, it flooded my heart with emotions to see these characters interacting with characters from the original book they hadn’t seen since, and some they’d seen along the way. The very end nearly broke my heart with happiness. I would love to shake Mr. Green’s hand (again) and thank him from the bottom of my heart for creating this world that has shaped so much of my imagination since I was a brand-new teenager.
How do characters do this? A select cast of characters from various books, TV shows, and films have captured my heart and now live in my head, inspiring me, moulding my perspective, setting ideals and a place to aim for, but also making me feel not alone in my flaws and hopes and desires. They’re always in there. I think it’s as simple as seeing myself in some of their decisions, maybe especially the wrong ones, the times they screw up, or make a fool of themselves, and then I feel redeemed as they redeem themselves. It’s a balance of relatability with creativity, believable dialogue with logical reactions. But somehow, it can seem like a magic combination lock.
My biggest professional dream, as well as creative one, is to create characters that readers, maybe even just ONE reader (but hopefully more 😉 ) feel even a fraction of the depth I feel for the cast of characters who’ve found a home in my head. I adore settings and magic systems and visiting other planets and fight scenes and love stories and tragic events and mysteries and intrigue all the rest, of course. But…
When I really think about it, characters are what stay with me most. How they handled those situations. How Hawk & Fisher dealt with the massive spider in the sewers that landed on Hawk’s head. How Rupert dealt with the gigantic underground worm that was chasing him through the mines, crying in the voice of a little girl. How they handled the relationship dynamics that resulted from their families’ interference. While all those situations stay with me, how the characters acted in light of them is what stands out in relief. And I hope with all my heart to create characters whose actions and fallible personalities might stick with someone else in the same way, someday.
Thank you, Mr. Green, and thank you, Rupert, Julia, Dragon, and Breeze. You’ve made my heart happy for more years than I care to count. 😉