One of the cool things about writing books – a series of books, especially – is that you have characters who grow into the story in ways you never imagined when they first showed up. For the record, I’m not one of those authors who anthropomorphize my characters – I made them, I’ll do with them what I damned well please – but that doesn’t mean small characters who weren’t intended for big things can’t surprise you.
I had that happen in The Water Road books. Part of The Endless Hills, the second book, dealt with the aftermath of the sack of a city called Innisport. When I had the main character tour the devastated city I wanted a local to call her out about what her troops had done there. That character was called Mida and all I intended for her to be in one a single scene in that book. Turns out in the final book, The Bay of Sins, Mida not only came back but had a significant storyline of her own, which I used to explore how the people of that city were trying to process what had happened there. Vigram Rossum turned out to be a similar character for me in the Unari Empire trilogy.
I created him originally to be a foil for Aton Askins, the main character who spends most of the story finding ancient artifacts for a mysterious employer. Rossum was the head of security for the person from whom Aton, um, “liberated” his first artifact. Beyond Rossum trying to track Aton down to get it back, I wasn’t sure he’d play much of a role.
Turns out, I liked the idea of Aton having a foil. Not someone who was working against him, at least directly, but who was sort of in the same line of work. The fraternity of those tracking down ancient artifacts of the gods for wealthy patrons isn’t that large, after all. More than that, I liked the idea of having Aton’s foil know precisely what he was doing. Aton has always kind of worked in a state of what we lawyers call willful ignorance – he’s willing to do the job and make the money and not think too hard about where it all comes from. Rossum knows and he thinks Aton needs to know, too. In other words, I liked the idea of Rossum almost becoming a form of Aton’s conscience, getting under his skin and making him reconsider how he’s making a living.
Rossum wound up hanging around, to the point where he’s one of the many point-of-view characters in Heroes. Not only do we get his view of the events in Cye as the story barrels to a close, we learn some more about how he wound up working for his employer in the first place. Rossum was once an Imperial Marine who got caught up in a bad situation and made it worse by doing the right thing. His future employer plucked him from the brig and gave him a second chance, but now Rossum is having second thoughts. Will his current actions echo his past?
Heroes of the Empire – Out June 7. Preorders available here for Kindle and here for other ebook formats.