I’m thrilled to have a guest post from L.K. Below , author of Hellish Haven–a dystopian multicultural romance (how’s that for a genre buster?)–from Kensington/Lyrical Press. In the following, she discusses how even seemingly small decisions when creating a character’s world can take on a larger meaning and come to symbolize an aspect of the character’s desires.
During the early drafts of Hellish Haven, I based some of the heroine’s likes and dislikes on my own preferences. When I needed a food which would be considered a decadent treat, a food which her husband could hand-feed to her and increase the tension between them, I settled on strawberries. Sweet, juicy, and small enough for Grant to tease over her lips. Not to mention they are among my favorite fruits.
Unfortunately, there are no strawberries in war time. Certainly not in the middle of winter. Think to yourself how hard it is to find good strawberries in December. I constantly sigh and wait for summer, for plump local berries. Eva and Grant wouldn’t be able to scour their local grocery store for produce. When they have made themselves the enemy of the government, they can’t venture into places kept firmly beneath government surveillance. So they have to make do with what they can get.
I had to go back to the drawing board. I thought of produce the rebel forces would be able to grow in their own homes. I erased the strawberries from Eva’s story, no matter that it was her (and my) favorite fruit. I replaced it with greenhouse-grown cherry tomatoes. An infinitely more practical solution.
In a way, that fruit symbolises Eva’s life. Set against a vigilant and ever-present threat, she can’t afford to let down her guard. She can’t afford to indulge in toeing the line, not even to visit an abandoned church set too near the enemy border. She has to be practical, when she wants to live free and unfettered. When I changed even that one small fact from desire to necessity, I thought to myself…
Where are my strawberries?
As an author, I am tied to my characters more closely than to my deepest friends. My characters are a part of me. They are born of my fears, my doubts, my hopes, and my dreams. I have to put my characters through the most heinous struggles in order to give them the happily ever after they deserve. That means taking away the comforts I sometimes take for granted. It means stripping my heroine of everything she knows and loves, even something as simple as her favorite fruit, in order to expose her true strength of character.
Because Eva is strong. She faces death, torture, brainwashing, and the ever-present threat of leaving her son an orphan. She does it to protect her family, her friends, and her freedom. I cringe with every punch doled her way. I cheer every obstacle she crushes beneath her heel.
And I make a promise that once it is all done, once her war has been fought and the book is over, there will always be strawberries.
About the author
L.K. Below grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, where her only peek into the wide world was through books. She’s been a bookworm ever since she learned to read, and loves any book with characters and worlds she can lose herself in. She wrote Hellish Haven to take one of her favorite classic books, George Orwell’s 1984, into the modern day…or, in this case, near future. She writes as obsessively as she reads and likes to Tweet about both at @LBelowtheauthor.