For today’s guest post, I’m tickled to have with us author Stephen Zimmer whose Fires in Eden series is a terrific read. One of the things that stood out to me most when I began reading the series was what a diverse group Stephen chose for his adventures and how adeptly they were handled. (I’m still a little torn on who’s my favorite.)
Now I have to confess that when Stephen asked me what topic he should write about for this post, I gave in to my own selfish desires and asked him to talk a little about how he came up with his fantastic cast of characters. To my joy, he’s accepted!
Settling on the Initial Ensemble
by Stephen Zimmer
My Fires in Eden series (epic fantasy) features an ensemble cast all throughout the novels. This assemblage consists of a mixture of inhabitants of the world of Ave, as well as several characters who derive from our own world and time.
It is these latter characters that carry a little more of a burden in terms of the resonance of the series. Not only are they main characters throughout the books, but they are the very first characters that readers meet in book one, Crown of Vengeance.
To a great degree, it is these characters who determine whether a reader is compelled to follow the story as it progresses from the modern day and moves into the world of Ave. As you might guess, they play a very important role in that regard, and the envisioning of this collection of men and women was taken with great care.
Epic fantasy is very conducive to ensembles, and the key to a good ensemble is to make sure that it contains distinctive individuals. Having them come from a range of backgrounds, ages, and life situations makes for a much more engaging situation when they are thrust suddenly into another entire world. These differences help determine the way that they react to the new world, as well as the way that they relate to each other and the inhabitants of Ave that they are eventually introduced to.
I opted to avoid bringing any of the group into Ave entirely alone. Every member of this ensemble has a pre-existing relationship with at least one other person in the group of eleven that find themselves within Ave, after going through the thick mists. I felt that this gave them a little more anchoring, in helping to adjust to the mind-boggling truth that they had left their own world behind, and it also presents some challenges to the group dynamics with the possibilities of factions taking shape as strife and struggle ensue.
Let’s take a brief look at the group itself to demonstrate what I mean about a collection of distinctive individuals.
Lee is the oldest member of the group, an Asian man in his forties who owns and operates a small Chinese restaurant located near a college campus. He happens to be a friend to the youngest in the group, Ryan, a teenager who, while street smart, comes from a pretty unstable home environment and does not have any mentor in his life more significant than Lee.
Then there is Erika, a very grounded, focused college student who is athletic and strong-willed. She happens to be friends with another student who becomes part of the ensemble, Mershad, who is a muslim going through a very difficult time on a personal level at the time of the events in Crown of Vengeance. Most of his extended family still lives in Iraq, and he has endured a very difficult time with the war still going on. There is a significant cultural difference between him and Erika that causes him a little discomfort interacting openly and directly with her, but this is one of the first things to fade once he is in the grip of the new world.
Next is Logan and Antonio, who are good friends with very different personalities and focuses. Antonio does food delivery for a take out place, while Logan works in graphic art and web design. Logan is introspective and restless in many respects, harboring bigger aspirations, while Antonio is not one with any great ambitions. Logan’s outlook has bigger implications for what happens later, as readers are beginning to learn.
Another group includes Janus, Derek, and Kent, who are all good friends in their later twenties. Derek is a soldier who is an Iraq war veteran with active combat experience, while Kent is a bit of a free spirit, whose father owns a lakeside house. Janus, in Crown of Vengeance, is largely in a mental fog due to the unexpected passing of his father. He is a reflective, quieter type of individual. It is to lift Janus’ spirits that sees Derek and Kent take him for a weekend foray at the lake house, where they make a very fateful foray by boat during one mist-shrouded night.
Finally, there is Lynn and Erin, two younger ladies, early twenties, who are largely living for the moment, and are most concerned about what they will be doing with their friends in a social context than they are about anything else. They are very close friends, but there is a sharp personality difference with Erin being much more sharp-tongued and opinionated than Lynn, who tends to “go with the flow” a little easier. These personality differences have a big impact regarding how the two adjust to things when they are in Ave.
As you can see, the ensemble is very diverse in nature. Age-wise there is a nice mix, with four being around college age, five in the twenty-five to thirty-five demographic, one a teenager, and one in his forties. There is a good range of ethnicities too, as Derek is a black male, Mershad is Arabic, Antonio hispanic, Lee Asian, and the rest of them Caucasian.
I feel this ensemble is anything but homogenous. It offers a lot of dimension and different life experience to draw from, and as the story progresses they must all look to each other to help get through the ordeal of adjusting to a foreign world. Each has their own skills and input to bring to the table. Ultimately, after assembling this group, I felt strongly that with the kind of range in the ensemble there is an extremely good chance that readers will find at least one or more characters in the bunch to really bond with, and relate to.
All of the background elements do have influences on the individual character arcs, as none of them remain static from the beginning to the end of the series. They all grow and change in certain ways, some faster than others. Choices are made, new relationships are formed, and challenges are met.
Seeing the potential and range in these characters, from where they start from to where their arcs take them, is what prompted me to settle on this particular collection of characters to be the modern day ensemble that gets taken back into Ave. They drive a great portion of the story, both directly and in terms of their role within the core story of the series.
Three books into the series, the growth of the characters is now well underway, and much more lies ahead! I can say with surety that I am very pleased with this ensemble, and I hope that readers have as much fun getting to know them as I have!
Intrigued? Pick up one of Stephen’s books over at Amazon. His latest book in the Fires in Eden series, Spirit of Fire, is fresh off the press!