There, I said it. The one admission most authors are loathe to make. My books are not going to be for everyone, and really, that's okay.
I've been reading through a lot of feedback this week on my first book, The Six - old and new Amazon reviews and Facebook feedback, mainly, and there's a trend I've noticed among it all, both the good and the bad: commentary on how unlikable my main character, Darcy, is. This isn't anything new, but it seems to have come up a lot lately, and it's gotten me to thinking about American consumerism and what we expect out of our entertainment these days.
So if you haven't read The Six, or if you've read it and were turned off by Darcy's attitude in book one, here's what I have to say to you: If you want your heroes to arrive ready-made, spunky, capable, and flawless, then my books are probably not for you. Sorry. I know we live in a culture that demands instant gratification, but I often find instant gratification disingenuous, unrealistic, and false. I believe in developing a character - especially a heroic character - from the ground up, and that means you're going to have to slog through the bad stuff to make the good stuff (when you get there) that much more rewarding.
There are many reasons why I wrote Darcy to be so insufferable in The Six. Here are a few of the main ones:
1) It's realistic. She's 13 in book 1, and while there are some truly delightful 13-year-olds out there (my character Sam is one of them), the greater preponderance of them lean toward selfishness, whininess, and moodiness. And the thing is, they don't even realize it! 13 is a difficult age, an age at which you believe the world revolves around you, and an age during which your emotions border on out-of-control on a daily basis. This is how I was at 13, and I wanted to bring it to life in Darcy.
2) It gives her room to grow - a lot of it! A main character should be dynamic, and the change that takes place should be for the better. I could have started Darcy off as a more likable character and still given her some ups and downs, sure, but I thought a full transformation from self-centered to selfless would pack a greater punch. She has to start off pretty awful for there to be any real change over the course of her story arc. I also didn't want her to hit her heroic high point in book 1 (or 2, or 3...). This is what I felt happened in The Hunger Games. Katniss is as good as she's going to get in the opening chapters of the first book, and it kind of feels all downhill from there. (Just my opinion, of course, feel free to disagree!)
3) The Gateway Chronicles is a six-book series. That's a lot of story to get through, and again, I wanted Darcy to grow at a realistic pace side-by-side with her natural maturing, and to allow the events of the adventures and trials she goes through to shape her into a better person. She definitely has highs and lows as the books progress, but overall, she should be the worst she's ever going to be in book 1, and the best she's ever going to be in book 6. That's been my goal from the beginning. Most people don't change over night, and if I'd had Darcy improve too much by the end of book 1, there wouldn't have been enough transformation left for five more books.
4) The Six is a Nigredo-stage book. This gets a little technical, but if you've read any of the other blog posts I've written about literary alchemy, that's what it's all about. There are three stages of alchemy Darcy has to progress through, and it all begins with the Nigredo, or black, stage of dissolution. This is a burning-away-the-dross stage, a stage during which the character is often beset with both internal and external problems that challenge the character's preconceptions about his/herself. It is the first step in a spiritual journey during which the character has to come to realize that he/she maybe isn't as great as he/she always thought. It is a peeling away of what is bad so purification can take place. This is where Darcy is at in The Six and The Oracle. Because I have six books, there are two books per stage. Darcy begins the Nigredo in The Six and progresses through it in The Oracle, which ends with a sort of crucible that challenges Darcy's notions of what love actually is and launches her into the next stage. By the time The White Thread opens, Darcy is ready to step into the Albedo, or white, stage of purification, and it's at this point that she starts to really learn selflessness.
To wrap up, it really is okay if Darcy turned you off SO much that you just couldn't get into my books. I still appreciate you giving them a chance, and I acknowledge that my books are not going to be enjoyable for everyone. But if you read all this and get what I'm trying to do with her in the stories, maybe you'll want to give them an extra chance. I promise you, she does get better - much, much better - as the story progresses, but you have to be willing to take the journey alongside her. She stumbles a lot along the way, but that's because she's human. And I believe a human character is more relatable in the long run. And if you're one of my industrious fans who have always understood that this is what I'm doing with Darcy from the very beginning, bravo to you! I commend you for giving her a chance, and I hope I don't let you down with how I conclude her story in book 6!
***As a very nerdy aside, I couldn't help thinking about the Marvel superheroes as I wrote this post. I'm a huge Marvel fan (geek), and I have strong and real opinions on all the Avengers. I love them all for various reasons, and while Captain America is probably my favorite Avenger at the end of the day, the two with the best origins stories, hands down, have always been Thor and Iron Man. Seriously, does anybody like Tony Stark before he's kidnapped? Or Thor before his dad banishes him to earth? They are both monumental jerks, and they're supposed to be, but that's what makes their transformations into heroes so satisfying in the end.