When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.That’s what Coffee and Conversation is all about – whatever’s top-of-mind. Settle in, grab a cuppa, and let’s chat!
What do you look for in a fantasy hero?
My parents kept a bookcase directly across from the doorway of my childhood bedroom. These weren’t kid books; they were grown-up reading material, and, as soon as I was able, I started pulling interesting volumes from those shelves.
Through them, I was transported to another world – one far less volatile and threatening than the one that existed within the walls of our home. Reading was escape, a way to expand my horizons, and I did it ravenously, using that bookcase as my personal buffet.
Thomas Covenant is not your average good guy. Leprosy in the modern age robbed him of some fingers, a sense of ease – and his wife and young child. Life has become an endless round of checking himself for new damage, being ostracized from society, and physical limitation.
When he’s inexplicably transported into a fantasy realm where he is almost instantly healed, he – well, he doesn’t respond in a way that anyone could call heroic. Not in the least, as a matter of fact. He thinks it’s a dream, and he rapes a young girl.
I’d never read anything like it before. Thomas Covenant was my first anti-hero. I was fascinated by the fact that, while I hated the things he was doing, I also understood why he did them. He was a damaged person, suddenly freed from the facts that had governed his life – but he was still damagd, and he reacted from that place in every action he took.
Decades passed. I grew up, moved out of that volatile home and away from the wonders of the bookshelf (by that point, I had long since consumed everything I found interesting upon it).
And then, last year, a new antihero, every bit as interesting as Thomas Covenant, and then some, slunk and swaggered his way into my life in a most unexpected way. I’d joined WIPpet Wednesday, a group of blogging writers who share excerpts from their works in progress. One Wednesday, Driev Talbert leapt out of author and WIPpet Mistress K.L. Schwengel’s blogpost and took up immediate and contentious residency in my imagination.
The child of an abusive father, Driev spurned s life of privilege to become bound to the Shadow Guilds. But tragedy has sent him into a downward spiral, and he’s renounced his oath, doing his best to lose himself in a haze of drink and women. He’s more comfortable in the gutters of the Runoff than on the high side of the Gilded Wall. He wants a life of relative anonymity – if he wants to live at all. Sometimes, he’s not so sure he does..
But anonymity might not be possible. He’s bound, after all, and, when his old life comes calling, Driev is ensnared, forced to return to a world he spurned.
In the process, he’s also driven to examine his life, the paths that led him to this point, and where he will go, from here. He’s balanced on a blade’s edge, with danger in every direction. It’s impossible to keep living as he has been – but every action seems to lead him further into conflict, controlled by opposing forces and wills. Some he knows all too well, and others pose threats he’d never considered.
Driev deals with all this in a manner that’s absolutely not heroic. If you’re looking for a big strong savior filled with virtue, who always does the right thing – well, he’s not your guy. Big and strong, yes, but wounded and sometimes hostile, Driev is more likely to drop everything to tumble a comely woman (or two, if they’re willing) than he is to save a damsel in distress. He’s looking for trouble, even when he tries to convince himself and everyone else that he isn’t. The thing is, more trouble than he wants is looking for him, too…
I had the pleasure and honor of beta-reading this novel a little over a year ago. Driev led me a merry chase, right from those first drunken steps along the icy Kin’s Road. I cursed him, and wanted to hug him. I held my breath for him more times than I can count.
As antiheroes go, Driev is a delightful mess. He’s a broken man still trying to get something that’s absolutely unobtainable. He’s not sweet, or kind – but he is, deep down, decent and as fair as he knows how to be, despite himself. If you like complex and flawed characters struggling through life in trial-and-error fashion as they breathe on the page, it’d be hard to do better than Driev.