I want to tell you a little about Zjel--a pivotal character in INHERIT THE STARS who is neither the heroine nor antagonist (per se), but nevertheless plays a major role in the story.
First of all, how do you say her name? I get that a lot. I had one beta reader call her Zee-gel. Another thought her name sounded like Zeel. In truth, I don't care how a reader chooses to say her name, but I pronounce it with a soft "j" like in du jour or Beijing. At least her last name is less cryptic in the pronunciation department. It's Shenna.
Zjel plays a very important role in INHERIT THE STARS, though if you ask if that role is as a force of good or evil, I'd have to answer: "It depends."
Role of Zjel Shenna
Though Zjel isn't the heroine, she's more than a mere supporting character. I think she'd best be described as a pivotal character. Her role changes with time, from her initial uh..."introduction" to our hero, Sair, through the climax of the story. Her character definitely evolves, but also influences.
Physically she's Yin to Sair's Yang. In this future there are no races. They've all merged into one, but then divided again into physical groups and genetic pools with the emergence of subspecies whose characteristics were sometimes determined by their environment, via rapid evolution illustrated by the Protodog Experiment.
Sair as a Rathskian, is tall, imposing and has the presence of an angry bulldozer. His entire subspecies has a well-earned badass reputation for being ruthless and deadly.
Zjel, on the other hand, is slight, petite and could be mistaken for an adolescent at first glance. She's from the planet Purmia and her subspecies is the future equivalent of the Pygmy.
But as Yoda once said, "Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not."
Zjel might best be described as the right hook you never see coming.
She's also smart, devoted to her cause, and makes either a trusted friend or a wrathful enemy. I don't want to give too much away about Zjel, because I'd rather let readers get to know her many facets through the story, but I will say that I first expected her to be hated and loathed by beta readers, when quite the opposite actually happened.
They loved Zjel, despite her rather--shall we say--bold personality.
Zjel is the first mate onboard the heroine's ship, Specter, and is a key player or a catalyst in many of the scenes and passages. She's integral to the plot and she packs a literary punch, in more ways than one.
When I originally started thinking about the cover design of INHERIT THE STARS, I really wanted to include Zjel because of all she brings to the story. I was told by several peers that would be a mistake, that putting a trio of figures on the cover--MFF as it were--implies the book is a ménage. I didn't want to mislead readers, so ultimately Zjel didn't get face time, and I felt a little bad about that. Zjel is a powerhouse. She deserved better. So I thought I'd try to rectify her unintentional snub by writing this blog.
Character Study of Zjel Shenna
General disposition: The kind of person you never want to cross. (Let's leave it at that.)
Height: Don't ask, but let's just say less than 5'0"--or footspans--according to story lingo
Current Occupation: First Mate on a P2PC (Planet-to-planet courier)
Former Occupation: Not disclosed
Marital Status: Not disclosed
Children: Not disclosed
Political Affiliation: Not disclosed
Ultimate goal: Paybacks
Favorite jewelry: Unity Wheel
Theme song chosen by author: Invincible by Pat Benatar
Most Used Word: Peitchau (Purmian translation: expletive deleted)
Typical expression: Brooding
There's a story behind Zjel that I've never shared before.
Zjel's character (though not her phenotype) was based on a peer who I respected and admired. As a young woman, her husband was killed very unexpectedly in an incident at a local commercial business. Let's just say it involved structural failure.
When my peer attempted to seek a settlement through a lawsuit, she couldn't afford a really good attorney and ended up with a paltry payment that was laughable considering she'd lost her spouse, his future income and a lifetime of his love and affection.
What did she do? She was so dismayed at being victimized by the system, she decided her way to fight back was to put herself through law school and become an attorney. Let me qualify that. She became a damned good attorney. Later she became an Assistant DA.
It was this sheer determination to never again allow herself to be a victim that inspired the creation of Zjel and the driving force behind her ultimate goal. To right a terrible wrong. To rectify an unspeakable act.
Success is often the ultimate revenge.
So that's Zjel in a Nutshell along with a little behind the scenes information that I've never disclosed before.
I hope you enjoy reading about Zjel as much as I enjoyed writing about her.
If you're looking forward to meeting Zjel in INHERIT THE STARS and would like a chance to win a copy of Part I: Flight gifted via Amazon PLUS a copy of the novelette Farewell Andromeda that takes place in the same universe, just leave a comment telling us about your first impression of Zjel Shenna based on her description here. We'll pick a winner next weekend.
INHERIT THE STARS PART I: FLIGHT is scheduled to debut this coming Sunday, February 22, 2015!
PART II: THE NETWORK and PART III: SACRIFICE have a planned release date only one week later on March 1, 2015.
Have a great week!