If you’ve been following my writing career from the beginning, you may recall some of my ruminations on Kayden Jayta, the protagonist of my first book, The Exercise Of Vital Powers, during its participation in the 2017 SPFBO competition. While writing the book, I was aware that she was a risky character to employ as the lead for a story, because her prevailing traits were guaranteed to make her dislikable in the eyes of many readers. Though it wasn’t my intention for her to be an anti-heroine, it was, nonetheless, a deliberate creative choice on my part to ensure that Kayden was unsympathetic for the first half of the book.
In the three years since the original publication of my debut novel, my assumption that any given reader’s reaction to Kayden would ultimately determine whether or not they enjoyed the story has only partially been born out. Of the small number of people who hated The Exercise Of Vital Powers, those who posted reviews cited their dislike of her as a character. But even among the majority who did like the book, there isn’t consensus about Kayden. Reader reaction can basically be divided into three distinct groupings: those who loved the character, principally because she isn’t the typical female fantasy protagonist; those who found her very unlikeable, but enjoyed the story in spite of her, rather than because of her; then there were those who were conflicted about how to feel.
When the time came to write the sequel novel, The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow, I was mindful of reader expectations of Kayden as a character. The way in which the first book ended meant that she couldn’t be the same person she was at the beginning of The Exercise Of Vital Powers, and when coupled with the fact that the upcoming second novel takes place two years after the events of its predecessor, I had to write her from a new starting point. With that in mind, I didn’t want the evolution of the character to alienate those readers who loved her depiction as an anti-heroine, while at the same time wanting to make sure that those readers who had issues with her characterisation in Book One would have an easier time rooting for Kayden this time around.
The above shouldn’t be interpreted as turning Kayden into a flawlessly, virtuous Mary Sue. She will never be that. What it does mean is that her less praiseworthy attributes have been toned down, so her interactions with other characters won’t be confrontational by default. I don’t necessarily want to describe her as a reformed person, but the result of Kayden’s rehabilitation as a protagonist is that readers will encounter a character who is no longer the resentful angry young woman she once was. That being said, she does retain some of the abrasiveness that frequently makes her snarky and rude, so readers will still find her familiar despite the softening of her character.
To address any concerns some readers may have that Kayden won’t be as interesting a character to read in the sequel, I can only tell you not to worry. This is Kayden we are talking about. Though she has taken steps to be a better person, that doesn’t mean she has acquired wisdom and good judgment. On the contrary, she is still a reckless young woman prone to making poor decisions, so be assured she will continue to find ways to get herself into all sorts of trouble. Whether she is capable of getting herself out of that trouble is something you’ll have to find out for yourself by reading The Apprentice In The Master’s Shadow.
The book is scheduled for publication on Monday 4th May, and the ebook edition is presently available to pre-order from various online digital stores, including, Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.
Thanks for reading,