Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to say thanks to Angela for having me on the blog. Thanks so much Angela!
As some of you may know, I have a new book out – Spider’s Bite, which is the first book in my new Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series.
As the series title suggests, the heroine of the book is Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider. In fact, the first line of Spider’s Bite is “My name is Gin, and I kill people.” So I thought I would talk a little bit today about what it’s like to write an assassin character.
I like assassin characters. I always have ever since I started reading epic fantasy books in high school. Eventually, I decided to write my own assassin in my own fantasy world, and thus Gin Blanco and the city of Ashland was born.
But it’s tricky writing an assassin, mainly because you have to make your character believable as a bad-ass and still sympathetic, vulnerable, and relatable all at the same time. My assassin, Gin, carries a set of knives with her – knives that she’s not afraid to use. A lot of people die in Spider’s Bite – a lot of people – mostly by Gin’s hand. And these are not simple, clean deaths – they are violent and messy, for the most part. At one point, there’s so much blood on Gin that she likens herself to looking like a murder victim out of a slasher movie.
So how could a character like that possibly be likable and worth rooting for? Well, here are some of the things that I did to make Gin more than just a stone-cold killing machine:
The tragic past: Gin’s family was murdered when she was thirteen, which led to her living on the streets and eventually being taken in by a master assassin. Ah, the tragic past. It’s a great tool for writers, especially when you’re trying to justify actions/behavior that fall outside the norm. And hey, who doesn’t love reading a fantasy book where the heroine overcomes such a soul-crushing background?
The world: Ashland is my fictional Southern metropolis, and I purposefully made it a dark, gritty, corrupt city where violence is as natural to some people as breathing. In a city like Ashland, a girl’s got to know how to take care of herself – and be willing to do whatever it takes to survive, no matter what. Gin excels at both of those things.
The rules: Yeah, Gin’s an assassin, but she has rules and a code of conduct that she follows. She doesn’t kill kids or pets, and she never frames anyone for the murders that she commits. And generally speaking, the folks that Gin targets aren’t the nicest people to start with.
Character quirks: There’s more to Gin than just her knives and killer instinct. She loves to cook and watch the Food Network. She also spends a lot of her free time taking classes at a local community college and reading classic Greek and Southern literature. I think that it’s the small things like this that really round out Gin and make her interesting and someone that real people can relate to (at least in some small way).
What Gin cares about: Everybody cares about something or someone, and Gin is no exception. She has a foster father and brother that she loves, as well as a couple of slightly crazy dwarves who help heal her and dispose of the bodies that she leaves in her wake. So when they’re threatened, Gin will kill first and ask questions later because she knows what will happen if she doesn’t – she’ll lose her foster family just like she did her real family.
It’s supposed to be dark, gritty fun: When I read, I want to be entertained first and foremost. I like action and danger and romance and, yes, even explosions. With Spider’s Bite, I wanted to write something that was dark and gritty and still action-packed and fun at the same time. I’ve created a bad-ass assassin character and a whole world for her to play in – not having fun with all that would be worse than getting on Gin’s bad side. Well, almost. 😉
What about you guys? Do you like assassin characters? Hate ’em? Share in the comments.
Jennifer Estep is offering a signed copy of her novel Spider’s Bite for one lucky winner!
Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends February 12. I’ll draw names on February 13, and notify winners via email.