Honoring the spirit of the old pulps while playing with their more appalling character elements proved an interesting challenge.
The first thing I knew was that I wanted a female hero. There would be no damsels in distress in my book. More than that, I wanted her rough, both in appearance and personality.
Enter Frances Borelli.
1920’s glamour had no place with any human character in a post-apocalyptic setting, let alone one with my hero’s violent history, and I wanted to make sure her appearance was a reflection of what she was about.
I made her clothing uniformly masculine to express her utilitarian attitude (and partly for a reason I don’t want to spoil here), offset by a bob cut intended as a nod to the nascent feminism of the era. I also provided her a tall, athletic build to make her intimidating presence genuine, with a prominent scar to hit the point home. The decision to make her Italian-American was pure tribute to my own ancestry. Her housing and elements of the voyage to the States covered in the book do indeed have a basis in reality.
I had to make sure her personality was almost as hard as her looks. Simply put, this is a woman who has been through some serious shit. Violence comes naturally to her at this point in her life, and she has few qualms about using it. That said, I wanted to introduce her in a way that showed she was still capable of compassion. From that seed, I could both make her a character worth caring about and one who has a great deal of room for personal growth. More than slaying monsters and putting down cults, her story is one about reclaiming the worthwhile parts of her humanity.
Next time, I’ll introduce you to more of the cast.