Though one of the most powerful Deacons, Sorcha Faris has a tarnished reputation to overcome, which is why she jumps at the chance to investigate a string of murders in the exotic city of Orithal. But it is there that her lover, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, is targeted by a cruel and vengeful goddess, unwittingly unleashed by the Emperor’s sister.
Capable female characters have percolated through my life like a strong cup of coffee, and it is these women who inspired my creation of Sorcha Fariss, the protagonist of Spectyr. While there are plenty of other characters in the The Books Of The Order, Sorcha is the one I get the most comments about. Here are some of the fictional women who influenced her personality and history, as far as I can decode them. Welcome to her world.
Sorcha is a complicated kind of gal; powerful and prickly, but with a vulnerable core that comes in large part from her past (which will be explored in further books.) When I first began to create her, I knew I wanted to explore what those determined female characters found in fantasy and science fiction might be like when they got a little older. After all, when you are tough and talented, there is bound to be a certain amount of arrogance that goes along with it.
The seed idea for Sorcha came from my teenage years, when I played an almost terrifying red-haired fighter in my Dungeons & Dragons game. I loved that character because she was fearless and definitely more than a little reckless. She was always at the front of the fight but took care of her friends with great bravery.
Women from the screen also contributed to Sorcha’s formation. Ellen Ripley from the movie Alien burned herself into my consciousness. She was tall, competent and her job was everything to her. She faced terrible horrors, and felt them keenly—yet she still went on. She even went back for the cat. (Oh that pesky cat!) Another influence was undoubtedly Trinity from The Matrix. I loved how competent and tough she was, too—but despite that, she was open to love. That is the same kernel of vulnerability that Sorcha shares.
As for literary influences, there are so many that it is hard to pick out just a couple. Paksenarrion from Elizabeth Moon’s book Sheepfarmer’s Daughter was the kind of woman who didn’t let the circumstances of her life hold her back. Her rise through the ranks of a military organization somewhat mirrors Sorcha’s own within the Order of the Eye and the Fist. There was also Morgaine from C. J. Cherryh’s Gate of Ivrel. Morgaine was almost an anti-heroine, so fixated on her goal that the rest of the world didn’t really seem to matter. She was also older than many heroines I had read about.
Determination, strength, power, Sorcha has them all, but I wanted her to be more than that. Cosseted because of her potential, Sorcha’s sheltered life has not really made her much of a social creature. In Sorcha and Raed’s relationship, he is the diplomatic, sensitive person, while she is the one out of her depth. What would happen if you put a woman like that with a partner like Merrick, a younger, just as talented, but inexperienced man? In such conflicts lie the interesting stories.
As the books move forward Sorcha begins to understand that she is not all powerful, and others have talents and abilities that matter, too. Slowly as the series progresses we get to see more and more of what makes her tick. I hope you will join me for the journey forward to find those cracks in her veneer.
– Philippa Ballantine