My conversation with Sasha (A Trial of Blood and Steel)author Joel Shepherd is up at Tor.com. As I say there, "...on top of creating a brilliantly-realized, believable world, Joel also excelled in peopling that world with believable characters, most of them strong, confident women, and telling their tales in a politically-nuanced way that made a lot of his contemporaries efforts seem naive by comparison."
Here is a taste:
Lou: So, tell us a little bit about Sasha, and how you came up with her.
Joel: Again, I like characters who break convention, and Sasha breaks a whole bunch. Firstly, she’s a fantasy character who reverses that old cliche of the common peasant who discovers they’re heir to royalty, or some other great destiny. Sasha was already royalty, but rejected it.
Secondly, she was born a princess but absolutely HATED everything that little girls are supposed to love about being a princess, and through a series of events becomes a warrior for a strange group called the Nasi-Keth. Not that she can ever stop entirely being a princess, and she still has relations with her family, but she’s certainly out of the power loop, to put it mildly. With too many little girls today still taught to love all princessly things, I found the idea of a princess who as a little girl would much rather play in the mud, ride horses (way too fast) and beat her siblings with a stick in pretend swordfights, just too irresistible. (I like to imagine Sasha sitting today’s little girls down and explaining that the fate of a princess in most realities is to a) marry someone old and ugly, b) spend all your life being told what to do by men of your family, your in-laws’ family (frequently including the mother-in-law from hell) and of course the priests of whatever dominant religion who will expect you to adhere to all their stupid, woman-hating beliefs, and c) to never ever have any fun at all).
And thirdly, I decided quite quickly that in order to become what she is in this patriarchal society, Sasha would have to be incredibly headstrong. That would make her a handful, to say the least, and some might say a nightmare, especially when she was younger. We see the personality type all the time today in top athletes— self-obsessed, almost pathologically competitive, and in Sasha’s case, prone to wild over-exuberance or temper. She can be a pain in the ass, but she has to be, because that’s the personality it takes to be what she is in this world. And I do think she manages to be lovable at the same time, because her heart’s always in the right place, and she’s absolutely selfless in her loyalty to friends and her belief in helping those who deserve it.
Read the whole thing here.