Michael Sullivan on
Basing Characters on Real Life People
Hello, my name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’m the author of The Riyria Revelations which was originally a six-book epic fantasy that is just now hitting the street as a trilogy (2 books in each volume) from Orbit. As part of the launch of the series, Fantasist as graciously offered me the opportunity for a guest blog, so here I am.
In coming up with the topic I thought about questions that pop up frequently in emails or when I’m meeting with people at a convention or signing. On many occasions I’ve been asked where I get my ideas for characters.
I know that everyone reads for different reasons, but for me I primarily read (and write) to be entertained. I find that I enjoy books most when I fall in love with the characters. So it is there that I always start.
The two main protagonists are Royce and Hadrian. Hadrian is a conflicted man going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis. He makes his living by operating on the fringes of society, performing tasks that nobles don’t want to dirty their hands with, but he’s not pleased with what he is often asked to do. He provides the conscience to his partner, Royce Melborn. To say Royce has had a hard life would be an understatement. He was abandoned as a child, grew up on the “mean streets” of Ratibor, betrayed by those he trusted, and ended up losing his best friend by committing an unspeakable act (that as it turns out really wasn’t his fault). Now obviously I don’t know anyone that fits the description of these two characters, but I do find myself channeling them from time to time. Hadrian shares my dreams of achieving some great deed, of being a hero, saving the kingdom, and winning the girl. As for Royce, he is extremely loyal and protective of the ones he loves. When my kids or wife are dealing with “difficult people” I can feel Royce bubbling to the surface. “Do you want me to speak with them?” I ask. The answer is always a resounding, “No,” probably because they know all too well how it would go.
As for women, the three main characters of the series are Arista, Thrace, and Gwen. I see my wife in each of them. Arista is capable and yet sometimes doubts her own abilities. She worries about whether she will ultimately triumph over whatever challenge she is currently going up against. Gwen, because she is open, honest, and loves Royce—not despite his rough exterior, but because she can see his true self. He tries to hide but she sees through it. She loves him for what he is—without any reservations. As for Thrace, I can’t go into why she is like Robin, as it would spoil a major plot point. Let’s just say she goes through a lot of changes over the course of the series and I really like seeing the transitions she goes through.
So there you have it. I might be a bit more like Royce then I let on as it is evident as I look back at this that we are both thieves. I’ve stolen inspiration from myself and my wife, and he…well he steals everything else (and sometimes the show). I want to once again thank Fantasist for inviting me over to chat…the coffee and crumb cake was great, and I didn’t even make a mess.