A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Minor characters can be a rebellious bunch. Perhaps other authors can easily keep them under control, but I often struggle with mine. The extreme case was Raven, a character who was introduced into the final book of the Earth Girl trilogy to do one specific thing and promptly did the opposite.
Amalie was in the trilogy from the first book, Earth Girl. In the twenty-eighth century, humanity has established colony worlds scattered across the star systems of five sectors of space. Earth Girl is centred on a class of archaeology students excavating the ruins of Earth’s ancient cities. I wanted the class to include at least one character from each of those five sectors.
I’m an author who discovers my stories by writing them. When Amalie walked into my head, she started telling me about herself. She was 18 years old, a quietly determined, practical girl from one of the frontier worlds of Epsilon sector. She’d been born only a few years after her frontier world opened for full colonization, and was the oldest daughter in a classically large frontier family of eleven children.
I wanted to know what a girl like this was doing studying history on Earth, but Amalie wasn’t ready to tell me that yet. As I wrote the book, I gradually learnt more oddments about her. Things like the fact Amalie’s world was still in the frantic building stage, so her first month at school had been spent helping to build the classrooms. It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing Earth Girl, and a male minor character tried making advances to Amalie, that she said the words that really stunned me.
“I may be an old maid,” she said, “but I’m not that desperate.”
I was glad that my other characters instantly started asking her questions about this, because I had no idea what was going on. I was fascinated by her explanation.
“Epsilon is the frontier. Most people leave school at 15. You can have Twoing contracts at 16, and marry at 17. Just about all the girls from my year at school are married.” She shrugged. “Don’t think I haven’t had offers either. I’ve had over twenty men ask me to marry them, and only one of them was drunk.”
This made me even more curious why Amalie hadn’t married, but left the frontier life that she obviously loved to come to Earth. A conversation between her and the class lecturer gave me a partial answer. Amalie’s world was building a university. My frontier girl had come to Earth on a special scholarship to study history, and would go back to be a lecturer at the new university.
But I felt that there was still more to learn about Amalie. When I’d finished writing the Earth Girl trilogy, I decided to write Earth 2788, a set of prequel short stories featuring some of my minor characters. It was great fun to write them, and get a glimpse of their varied backgrounds and why they’d come to Earth and got caught up in Jarra’s adventures. Some of these stories were much longer than I expected, turning out to be novelettes rather than short stories.
When Amalie took her turn in the spotlight, her story was about the day after her best friend’s wedding. The day she became the old maid, the last unmarried 17-year-old girl in Jain’s Ford Settlement. The day she was offered the chance of a scholarship to study on a distant world in another sector. The day she got her twentieth offer of marriage.
It was the pivotal moment in Amalie’s life, and she shocked me. She was tempted by the thought of the scholarship, of becoming a lecturer at the new university, but she loved her frontier life. She’d just had an offer of marriage from Rodrish Jain, the son of the first two colonists to set foot on her world, and she was going to accept him.
But if Amalie accepted that offer of marriage, how did she end up going to Earth? I wanted to know, but it was obviously going to be a very long story, much longer than even a novelette.
So I cut the short story off at the point where Amalie was still deciding what to do. That’s the story that appears in the Earth 2788 collection, but Amalie has been telling me about what happened next.
She’s told me about life on a distant frontier world where people are land rich and cash poor, about the heavy social pressures on a girl when there are ten unmarried men for every unmarried woman, and about the native creatures of her distant frontier world. The sparkling clouds of tiny sapphire, emerald and ruby coloured flutterflies that dance among the trees at night, the troops of nosy moon monkeys, and the shoe-loving, insufferably cute, panda mice.
Frontier : An Epsilon sector novella will be available as an ebook in December 2015/January 2016. It begins with two chapters that are Amalie’s story from Earth 2788 and continues with eighteen new chapters.
My minor character, Amalie, is standing firmly in the spotlight.
Janet Edwards lives in England. As a child, she read everything she could get her hands on, including a huge amount of science fiction and fantasy. She studied Maths at Oxford, and went on to suffer years of writing unbearably complicated technical documents before deciding to write something that was fun for a change. She has a husband, a son, a lot of books, and an aversion to housework.
Find out more about her and her EARTH GIRL trilogy at www.janetedwards.com