So how did that happen? When I began writing this book I had a clear idea of who the protagonist was; Doc Hunter. He is the ‘ubermensch’. The superman of eugenics. A fitting hero for any novel. Well, he would not agree with being either an ubermensch or a eugenic superman, but he is no longer the main protagonist of the book. I have started reading through the manuscripts, looking for errors, checking for consistency, seeing if I can write particular passages better, and adding bits where I think that I have been a bit too shallow. It was during this exercise, still ongoing by the way, that I realised that a one time bit part player has promoted herself to the lead role; Artemisia Montessori.
It would not be quite correct to call her femme fatale. Yes, she is a woman and yes, she is dangerous, but she does not seduce men to get them to do her bidding. She is far too independent minded for that. She is also far too capable with her trusted Beretta M1915 to require a mere man to do her dirty work.
Now, when I first imagined her I saw Artemisia as an interesting female spy who would contrast well against Hunter. She is devious and beautiful, he is physically powerful and the essence of integrity. Chalk and cheese. However, as I wrote the book Artemisia became more and more important to the story. I realise now, with hindsight of course, that she is a character who can really develop. She begins as a bit of a two dimensional assassin, then moves onto someone who is trying to carve out a new life for themselves, attempting to escape the ghost of their past, to a woman who is trying to be a real person looking to live her own life free from all the constraints she previously experienced.
I had not originally intended for that to happen, it just evolved on its own. It does, however, fit in very well with the themes of the book. Curiously, Hunter has not been relegated. Indeed, he is important to Artemisia’s development, but not in the obvious way. Theirs is not a romantic relationship resulting from them being thrown together by dangerous circumstances. I have spotted an undercurrent of romance in the narrative, or is it just a suggestion? I am not sure yet, but it is not the dominant theme of their relationship. In many ways he is what she aspires to be. Having led a life of duplicity, violence, and cold shallowness, Artemisia wants to break free from her past and become that vague and elusive being, a normal person. She has many reasons to believe that this is impossible for someone like her. Her training dominates her thinking. She has blood on her hands. There is even a suspicion that she has become addicted to violence. Hunter is in a similar line of work to her, and yet he has not been corrupted by his experiences. He remains a self-disciplined individual who can express empathy for others and possess an enviable degree of integrity. Initially, at least, Artemisia’s infatuation with Hunter has more to do with measuring herself against him as a yardstick of the human qualities that she wants to find in herself.
She is not alone in this respect. Agent Frasier finds himself in a similar situation, only he is largely unconscious of the fact, or deluding himself to it. Although on the surface a typical government man, he suffers from a complex that drives him to over-achieve, to match himself against the best, and to believe that he is good at everything that he puts his mind to. Unfortunately, Frasier cannot abide seeming to be inferior to people he sees as being beneath him. Also, when he does fail to measure up to someone like Hunter, he suffers bouts of self-recrimination, loses belief in his abilities, and looks to take things out on anyone around who appears to be weaker than himself. He is not a bad person, just someone with a few faults that need addressing. Mind you, some of his actions are not particularly good either.
I find it curious that Hunter has moved from being the archetypal action hero to playing a role that is integral to the other characters’ development. He is still important to the story. His perception still leads to clues being followed and leaps in intuition that move the story forward in a logical fashion. Also, his feats of bravery really lift the tension and drive the plot forward as well. His developing relationship with Artemisia was a joy to write. I employed a touch of English reserve so that you just never know if he is really interested in her romantically or not. They come close on more than one occasion, and it is definitely there in the dialogue, but it is never validated, not with so much as a kiss. I have my reasons for that; I do not believe that every thread needs to be tied at the end of a story. Sometimes you can hold it over for the next book.