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Spotlight on Leon

One of my favorite and most frustrating scenes to write happened when Leon was having a fight with Gaia.  This scene drove me mad, mainly because I could not get Leon to talk. He was so brittle and enraged that he refused to speak to Gaia, which meant he refused to speak to me, too.  He actually walked away from me when the scene opened, which was my first surprise.  I knew we were in trouble.  As I tried to advance the scene forward, physically walking into the space, I could only see him from behind because he refused turn to face us, us being Gaia and me.

It was a terrible feeling. I had a sickening premonition that Gaia was going to push him towards explosive anger, and I didn’t want either of them to be ugly or unfair or mean.  I didn’t want characters I cared about to hurt each other.

Too bad for me.

That scene took me a million drafts, and I had to get worked up emotionally to match the hurt and anger of the situation each time, trying to make it true. The dialogue had to be biting and incisive, and the scene had to go on far longer than conflict-adverse little me could ever endure in real life.  That scene, which I kept going back to, became pivotal for me to understand Leon. It had to encompass every injustice and betrayal that had come before, and it had to inform every possibility that came afterward. The drafts started with silence, then became too vicious for me to bear, and then reined back to the way the scene reads now.

I’ve learned a lot about Leon over the span of three books. He’s fiendishly smart, for one thing, in the way he can read people and quickly see solutions in dangerous situations. He trusts just about nobody, though he’s naturally civil.  He certainly had a corrosive, manipulative family life while he was growing up.  He’s layered, tender, powerful, and hungry. I’m not certain he sees himself clearly or if he ever can.

It’s hard to say much more without being spoilerish.  I will offer up one small exchange though, one that I find telling.  There’s a point when Leon has to do something awful. He has his reasons, but it’s still awful, and a father says to him, doubting Leon can be so calculated and cruel:

“You look like a decent young man.”

Leon’s reply: “I’m not.”

As people, I don’t think we’re made all good or all bad. I think we’re trying. And Leon’s wrong about himself. He’s inherently decent. He can’t help but be.

“Ruled,” the short story that falls between Books 2 and 3 of the Birthmarked trilogy, comes out this Wednesday, September 19th, free on Tor.com. It’s told from Leon’s perspective and gives a glimpse of the outsider looking in.

8 Responses to Spotlight on Leon

  • How exciting! I didn’t know this little gem was on the horizon. Can’t wait to read it! Oh Leon how I love you and yet get so mad at your bitter anger!

  • Amy ~ It was tricky to write, but I’m happy about how it turned out. I think you’ll like it!
    Hugs,
    Caragh

  • Is the scene in Promised, or have we already read it? I’m trying to think, and I think it’s after the games, but I not sure. I love Leon and my heart always goes out to him.

  • Caragh!!! You are my hero. I just wanted you to know. Have you ever experienced “excitement seizures” ? well, their pretty great, I just gotta say, your books give me excitement seizures. Holy wow. You’re incredible! thanks so much for writing my favorite book of all time!! oh! p.s Isla~ yep, that part she posted was from the second book:)

  • Isla ~ Judith is right: you have the right spot. There’s something so satisfying about making Leon miserable.
    Judith ~ Thank you! You’re far too kind.
    All best,
    Caragh

  • Caragh, this is so interesting and insightful! I absolutely admire your writing, and i just wanted to say that i thought that particular scene (Leon and Gaia fighting) was written perfectly! So often, these types of scenes are written with one person completely pushing away the other in an unrealistic way which is very frustrating for the reader. This scene is the most realistic confrontational scene between love interests that I have read. I was so afraid that when Leon walked back inside and Gaia followed him only to stop short at the back door, that she was going to turn around and leave. Thank you for confronting this scene and writing it in such a powerful and realistic way. It had the perfect balance of anger, hurt and bitterness while still holding out some hope for the reader through a tinge of longing, understanding, regret and vulnerability. Their exchange felt so true to life and for me it provided a huge amount of insight into both of their characters, particularly Leon. I cannot wait to read ‘Promised’ and immerse myself into this world you have created once again. Thank you 🙂

  • I can’t wait to read about Leon!! I just can’t stop loving him no matter what!! I think that the short stories about Leons part of the story is very important, exciting and helpful to the readers because we mainly get Gaia’s part of the story but thats good also and having an insight at the other characters story makes the whole thing exciting to read!! Thank you Caragh for creating this amazing book I love it

  • Leela ~ I’ve read your thoughtful comment twice now, and I feel like your response is exactly what I was hoping for when I wrote that scene. Fights can drive people apart, but they do also reveal a lot about who they are, and I think that the fact that Gaia and Leon kept the fight going and kept trying to explain themselves shows how deeply they care. Thank you so much for your insights!
    Gavhar ~ Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying the two perspectives. Leon’s mind is harder for me to get into because he’s very private and closed, but it was interesting for me to see the difference between what he thought and what he actually could say aloud. Happy reading!
    All best,
    Caragh

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