British Fantasy writer David Gemmell wrote muscular, heroic fantasy stories full of battles and violence, but what set him apart from the rest of the pack writing at that time was his ability to create characters with shades of grey.
To a certain extent, there were no heroes in Gemmell’s work, with even Druss, his signature creation, having his fair share of flaws and weaknesses.
Gemmell’s debut novel, Legend was published in 1984 and over the next twenty five years, he churned out dozens of stand-alone fantasy stories set across timelines in his created worlds.
Most notable of these were the Drenai stories, which introduced the world to heroes such as Druss and Rek and Skilgannon the Damned, but also to, in my opinion, the greatest anti-hero of them all, Waylander.
Waylander’s tale was told across three books, published years apart. An assassin who lived in the shadows, we first meet him as a traitor to the Drenai, a brutally cold and selfish killer who has lost his way, only to find it again when he meets Danyal and her two daughters.
Waylander’s is a redemption arc, and while my debut novel Badlands is far removed from the heroic fantasy books of David Gemmell, Waylander’s arc was very much on my mind when I created my outsider assassin, Raven.
From conception, I always knew I needed an enforcer type character, someone who had no problem with killing those who stepped out of line and threatened the conspiracy.
I originally envisaged your standard burly, bouncer type, but when it came to writing, I switched it and went with a small, slight, damaged figure with a penchant for hoods and face masks (this was before Covid made face masks essential fashion items/tiresome burdens – delete as applicable).
Driven by the need for revenge, and with a lust for blood and a cruel streak, Raven kills without compunction, but also holds the key to the whole plot.
Another technique of Gemmell’s was to give a back story to even the smallest of characters, and I applied this to some of the incidental characters in Badlands.
The result, I hope, is a story where the minor characters feel as if they have a big part to play in the story as a whole and even the darkest characters have at least a shot at redemption.
Badlands is published by darkstroke in eBook & paperback on 21st January 2022. Pre-orders are available now: http://mybook.to/badlandsdarkstroke