Characters of Questionable Virtue

by Gail Z. Martin

(Reposted from an interview with Double-Dragon Publishing)

Q:  What’s so attractive about characters of questionable virtue?

A:  If you want to be truthful, I think everyone has questionable virtue depending on the circumstances.  It’s said that integrity is what you do when you think no one is looking, or no one will find out.  That being said, few people would qualify for sainthood.  Case in point—lonely stretches of highway with no police cars in sight.  How many drivers faithfully keep to the speed limit?

So some of my characters are basically honest people who are thrown into extraordinary circumstances who do what they have to do to survive.  Others are characters who make it a habit to walk on the wild side.  Maybe they were thrust into those situations, or maybe they had a choice, or maybe it’s been so long that they don’t remember.  They follow their own rules, and maybe their own code of honor, but they definitely color outside the lines.  And they’re really fun to write about!

Q:  Your books have a variety of smugglers, thieves, vagabonds, whores, con men, assassins and murderers—and those are the good guys.  How did a nice girl like you end up in a rough fictional neighborhood like this?

A:  If everyone plays by the rules, you might have a cut-throat chess game, but it’s going to be short on action and adventure.  Dangerous times call for people who can think outside the box—and play outside the rules, especially when the society that enforced the rules no longer exists.  Maybe I’m a product of the modern zeitgeist, but I keep being drawn back to stories set during a kingdom’s or civilization’s collapse.  In that kind of a setting, the people who can adapt quickly and think on their feet will be the ones who survive.  They’re going to bend some rules along the way.

Q:  In Ice Forged, the fate of the kingdom rests on a small group of convicts and a disgraced lord.  How did you decide to write their story?

A:  Society believes it knows how to pick a winner, but history shows that conventional wisdom is often wrong, especially when the rules change and the chips are down.  I thought it would be fun to get to know a group of people who have been exiled and imprisoned, only to find out that when the kingdom is brought to its knees, they may be the only ones who can save the day.  I love it when the arbiters of society are wrong and the ones who don’t fit in end up the winners.  I guess I’m a fan of the underdog.

You can download an excerpt from Ice Forged here:


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