The Importance of Secondary Characters
When I started writing Withered + Sere, I knew that what would make or break the book would be the secondary characters. Given that W+S contains the largest cast of characters I’ve ever written, the book would die a quick and violent death if those characters weren’t memorable and unique. You can’t rest this type of book just on the shoulders of the two leads, especially with the type of story I was hoping to write.
I like secondary characters. I like giving them life, making them interact with the leads, for better or for worse. There’s the Kid, and Sandy, and Gary. There’s Abe from Into This River I Drown, or the We Three Queens from How to Be a Normal Person. Mrs. Paquinn. Nana. Morgan and Randall. Lottie. Kevin (oh, Kevin, how I love you so). Corey/Kori. These are my secondary characters, these are the people that, if they didn’t exist, then the books they came from would be lacking sorely. Some are there for comedic relief. Some are there to be the tragic foil for the main characters. Still others are there to knock some motherfucking sense when the MC’s begin acting like idiots.
I like secondary characters.
Actually, scratch that.
I love them.
And it’s my love of the B-Team that I wanted to carry on into Withered + Sere.
Cavalo is a loner. He doesn’t like most people. He can barely stand to be around them, which is why he has isolated himself away from everyone else. Which is why I had to give him two sidekicks that weren’t necessarily people.
You have Bad Dog, a faithful and loyal mutt who never wants to leave Cavalo’s side. He is Cavalo’s heart, his innocence (what little left there is).
You have SIRS (Sentient Integrated Response System), the robot who resided in the prison that Cavalo one day stumbled upon and never left. He is Cavalo’s brain, his conscience.
I wanted to fill them with such life, make them so rich, that a reader would demand I write stories about them too. I wanted them to seem alive, even if they were just mutt and machine. Because they are Cavalo’s heart and conscience, keeping him from breaking a part and descending into madness. I don’t think he would have made it as far as he did without them.
(Spoiler, because it’s necessary, I think: when people hear about dogs in stories like this, they automatically worry about the survival of the dog. (See the Will Smith movie I Am Legend and tell me you don’t ugly cry at that one scene—I’m talking full on Wookie Cry Face). Bad Dog fights alongside Cavalo, and sometimes he gets hurt, but I won’t kill him off just for the sake of doing so. I’m not that much of a cruel bastard. Mostly. It should probably also be mentioned that my editor threatened to quit if anything happened to Bad Dog, so. You know. Threats apparently work on me. Fun.)
SIRS and Bad Dog bring out the better parts of Cavalo, even while they themselves might be in a state of deteriorating, just like Cavalo is.
Then you have the people of Cottonwood, Idaho, the closest town to where Cavalo lives in the prison. They know of him. Some fear him. Some try and call him friend. Cavalo doesn’t care much either way. But it’s not necessarily indifference; it’s the years and years of the shit storm that’s been Cavalo’s life that keeps him away from Cottonwood as much as possible. He trades with them. He sleeps with a couple of them. But that’s the extent of it to him. He uses them to get what he needs to survive, to scratch an itch, to quiet the voices in his head every now and then.
But, as it turns out, Cavalo is wrong.
Cottonwood, Idaho is a very real place, as is most every single setting I used in these two books. Of course, the real Cottonwood is most likely nothing like the one I described. That’s the fun part of fiction: I get to rearrange real things to suit the needs of my story.
The people of Cottonwood in W+S aren’t real, of course. But I wanted to make it seem like they were, like this was a living, breathing town that could actually exist. That if the world ended, you could actually stumble upon a place just like this, where the townsfolk are doing what they can to survive. They have their fears. Their dreams. They all have motivations for doing what they do, some possibly more sinister than others. Some will survive. Some will not. And even when they do not, even if the most minor of characters should bite the bullet, I wanted to make sure that while it might not be devastating, you’ll still feel a pang of something when it happens, because you’d gotten to know them, however briefly.
I’m not that much of a cruel bastard.
But I am, sometimes.
Even if it’s only for a little bit.
Blurb: Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.
One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.
It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.
The world has died.
This is the story of its remains.
Buy Links: DSP Publications & Amazon
Withered + Sere Blog Tour
April 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
April 13- My Fiction Nook
April 18 – Just Love Romance
April 19 – Divine Magazine
April 19 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
April 19 – The Novel Approach
April 20 – TJ Klune’s Blog- A Fistful of Awesome
April 21 – It’s About the Book
April 21 – Love Bytes
April 22 – Prism Book Alliance
Author Bio: When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)