Writing an Ensemble Cast
Thanks, Elizabeth, for hosting me.
Although each book of The Sleepless City—the urban fantasy series which is a joint project between myself and Elizabeth Noble—focuses on one couple, the other characters play a big part in the storyline.
One of the things I love about writing series is juggling the balance between focusing on particular characters for one book, and advancing the storyline and giving others their part to play in it. Characters don’t just grow and live on the pages of the books, but lead their own lives in between. I think of books as a small glimpse into their lives, rather than the whole sum of it.
With each book so far being from different points of view, it is also the opportunity to see characters through the eyes of others. Book 1, Shades of Sepia, introduced the series through Simon and Ben, a vampire and human. Book 2, Electric Candle—by Elizabeth—continued the story from Forge and Blair’s perspective, who are two vampires. Book 3, Family and Reflection, gives some insight from Lucas and Declan, a werewolf and a vampire.
While exploring the growing relationships between the two point of view characters, an important part of this series is the friendship between all of them. In solving crimes and taking down bad guys, each of the characters plays a part, and they work together, each bringing to the table their own skill set and unique perspective. Those perspectives also give the opportunity to explore not just the characters, but the world itself from another angle. It’s one of the reasons I like the mix we have of vampires, werewolves, humans and—of course not forgetting—Mr. Boggs, the castle’s ghost.
Book 3 of The Sleepless City, Sequel to Electric Candle
For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.
Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.
Declan turned the page of his book, read the first paragraph, then shook his head. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered, as he couldn’t for the life of him remember what had happened on the previous page, let alone in the last few chapters. He closed the book with a thump, got up from the table, went over to the fridge, and opened it.
He wasn’t hungry, but if he had been, the mold-covered plate on one of the shelves would have put him off whatever else had taken his fancy. Someone really needed to have a word with Lucas about leaving his science experiments to breed. Declan lifted the plate somewhat cautiously and sniffed it, then wished he hadn’t. City coroner or not, this wasn’t… normal. Normal people cleaned out their leftovers before they got the chance to become strange new life forms.
Even if, in this case, his definition of normal was a werewolf.
But, despite his reaction, Declan couldn’t bring himself to throw the—whatever it was—away. To him it was disgusting, but to Lucas it might be some new discovery crucial to whatever he was currently working on. And Declan didn’t want to upset Lucas. In the short time they’d known each other, he’d become quite fond of Lucas, and enjoyed the time they spent together.
Declan sighed. He returned the offending thing to its previous resting place, ignoring the visions of reanimated zombie leftovers creeping up the stairs to attack him in the middle of the night, and instead got a wineglass out of the cupboard. He poured himself a decent-sized portion of his favorite red beverage and settled back down on the chair he’d recently vacated. As much as he enjoyed a good vintage wine, there were times when one had to quench one’s other thirsts. He sniffed the glass and savored the aroma before swallowing.
Hmm, not bad. It was amazing the standard of blood available to purchase through the right sources. It made it so much easier to feed than it used to be, and less messy too.
He heard the light step on the stairs and human heartbeat long before Ben reached the kitchen and stood awkwardly in the doorway.
“Hello, Ben,” Declan said. “Don’t worry, you’re not disturbing me.”
“If you’re sure?” Ben Leyton ran one hand through his thick dark hair. He looked tired. “I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d make a Milo and see if that helps.”
“I heard Simon having a nightmare earlier. He never did sleep well on anniversaries.” He’d known Simon Hawthorne a long time; Jonas Forge had introduced them shortly after Simon had been turned. Declan had also helped Simon through a dark part of his life, triggered by the events he suspected had prompted this particular nightmare, given the time of year. “I also don’t mind if you turn on the light.”
Although Declan didn’t need much light to see, especially with the full moon casting its glow into the room, Ben would appreciate more illumination.
“Yeah, well, they’re the worst times for most people, I guess.” Ben flicked on the light switch before walking across the kitchen. He filled the kettle and put it on to boil before reaching into the cupboard and bringing down a green can. “Do you want some? It’s a chocolate drink.”
“Thank you but no.” Declan indicated the glass in front of him.
The loud howl almost made him jump, and only years of practiced self-control stopped him. Even so, Declan’s hairs stood on end on the back of his neck, and the howl sent a shiver through him.
Lucas howled again. Frustration, anger, and loss all rolled into a sound that was pure wolf.
Declan knocked his glass over, spilling its contents. Without thinking, he moved at vampire speed, catching what was left of the blood in his palm and drinking deeply.
The glass fell to the floor, smashing into tiny pieces. He ignored it and finished the blood, then wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. A low growl escaped his lips. He knew his eyes were completely green. They tended to do that when his fangs extended.
When he looked up, Ben was staring at him, his eyes wide. “I’ll clean up the mess, shall I?” Ben said hurriedly, already heading for the broom.
“Don’t worry,” Declan said. “I’ll do it. Make your chocolate drink, mon ami. It’s my mess, so my responsibility, yes?”
Meet Anne Barwell
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as "too many." These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of "spare time" is really just a myth.
Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.