C is for—Colour (People of)
Since A Book of Tongues was frankly a bit of a sausage party, in A Rope of Thorns, I began by deliberately developing at least one awesome lady character, only to watch others start spilling out of the woodwork by Act Three. And while I genuinely tried to make sure there were Native characters involved from the beginning of the story (more on this later), as well as at least some other People of Colour here and there, by the time Tree rolled around, two things were obvious: A) A lot more of said PoCs had thus far been represented as “monsters” than I felt comfortable with, overall, and B) I was also starting to find the lack of straight-up African-Americans in my own narrative disturbing, especially since it was explicitly set post-Civil War. So one decision I made before even starting the book was that if any portion of the U.S. Army was assigned to support Allan Pinkerton's war against Hex City, it would probably consist of one of those legendary Coloured Brigades like the one showcased in Edward Zwick's film Glory. This allowed me to bring in new characters such as the 13th Louisiana Regiment of Infantry (African Descent)'s commander, Captain Washford—definitely a departure from historical accuracy, I'm sad to say—and a soldier who becomes friends with Ed Morrow, Private Carver. I'm also fairly proud of a lady who calls herself Sal Followell, using that post-slavery shorthand of taking your former owner's last name, who emerges as one of the backbone mages on the Hex City Council. She's nobody's “auntie”, and knows more about the cannibal mechanics of hexation vs. hexation than some of her more idealistic comrades have ever dreamt of, so she makes a damn good devil's advocate without actually advocating for the Devil.
D is for—Diné
Like I said, I really wanted to have Native/First Nations characters from the get-go, difficult and potentially problematic as I knew that would be. In A Book of Tongues, the main representative from this group was the Diné Hataalli known as “Grandma” or “Spinner”, a devotee of the Great Spider Mother, the Weaver, the Changing Woman—sworn enemy of all Anaye, and of every hex who makes him- or herself a monster by walking the Witchery Way. One of the reasons I love writing Grandma so much is that I've tried throughout to make her as little like the Magical Native Person stereotype as possible; she's a crusty old lady, blunt and bruisingly practical, with about as little inherent respect for Stupid White (People)/Bilagaana as Gary Farmer's character Nobody from Jim Jarmusch's Acid Western Dead Man. This attitude gets her killed by the end of A Book, but being a hex, that's not the drawback it might be: She returns at the end of A Rope, and enters A Tree as a grumpy ghost trapped inside a gigantic, haphazard golem made from bone-dust. Like a lot of hexes, Grandma devoutly believes that her way/tradition is the right one, and while her ideal of Balance between natural and unnatural forces does indeed seem smart—antithetical to Ixchel's blood-soaked craziness, at any rate—part of her overall journey has always been towards the realization that she does not have all the answers, just because she has one or two. But then again, none of the hexes, or even my characters, do; the final lesson is, I suppose, that the best version of an “answer” can really only be assembled by committee.
Tomorrow: E and F!