Q&A Lord of Shadows (mild spoilers)
ihatethecoldpeace said: 1.How did you create Julian? He’s my favourite character, and I’d really wanna know how did you create his personality and weaknesses. And how not to cry every time you think about him.
It’s hard to separate out Julian’s creation process from that of the whole Blackthorn family. I knew I wanted to write about a big family with lots of siblings, and I figured out early on that Julian was going to be the one in charge. But I also knew that I wanted Julian to have other things going on as well—his art, his feelings for Emma, the ruthless streak when it comes to protecting the people he loves. I see Julian as an example of someone who has dealt with extremely adverse circumstances in ways that were pretty effective, especially considering how young he was when he took charge. But part of the plot of TDA is that no one can manage everything, no matter how skilled they are at scheming and manipulation. The situation that the Blackthorns were in was precarious and unsustainable. Eventually something was going to give. That loss of control was not an accident—I always knew it would happen, and that it would be formative to how Julian (and all the other characters) continue to grow and learn and change, which you’ll get to read about in Queen of Air and Darkness.
There is also a general rule of mine I often try to put into play when creating characters: say you have to pick one overall word to describe your character. They seem in general to be kind, fun-loving, angry, caretaking, etc. So most of the things you know about them, from their habits to their interactions with others, will lean in that same direction as their major characteristic. In Julian’s case it was caretaking: making pancakes, being generally gentle, artistic, loving, baby-cuddling, etc. (It was part of gender-flipping Emma and Julian, making her the revenge-seeking warrior and him the nurturer.) Then he has this one other major characteristic that we find out about as we get to know him, which is this fairly intense ruthlessness when it comes to protecting his family. That characteristic cuts against the grain of the others, complicating his character — and we all know complicated characters are the most fun and interesting, right? :) I try to do the same work with most major characters, and I usually break it down as an exercise before I even start writing them. It’s a reminder that real people often have directly oppositional personality aspects, and so should characters, and that what we love most about them is often exactly that space where the opposing parts of their personality meet (Magnus is fun-loving and freewheeling — but also deeply serious, wise, stable, and cynical.)