Today we present the delightful New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa Ballantine! Pip is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series, and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences with her husband, Tee Morris. Dawn’s Early Light is the newest book coming March 25th. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats. Welcome, Pip!
One of the most common compliments I get about my books is that people love the characters I create, and I honestly cannot think of a nicer comment to receive. Every time I get it I smile very broadly.
Ever since I was a young reader, characters were the thing that drew me into a story so completely that the real world disappeared (whatever the real world is…). I learned to see events through the eyes of people I wanted to spend time with. Through them I could experience and feel things I had not yet felt, or might never feel—like say riding a dragon!
However the characters that I loved the most didn’t have to be perfect. In fact I prefer them to be broken, flawed, and make terrible choices. I loved it when a character made me scream at the open page ‘why are you doing that?’ because it meant they were real. I am sure we can all think of people in our lives you make the kind of choices that make no sense to us.
I am also intrigued by characters that suddenly get power of some kind and how that affects their personality. In most fantasy books there is a character who ends up in that situation, and how that changes them can be an intriguing journey. In by Books of the Order, Sorcha Faris is an older character, in her late 30s, and has been a powerful wielder of magic. I wanted to reflect how that can bend and warp a person, so Sorcha in the first novel has plenty of flaws. She’s prickly, she’s arrogant, and she most definitely is not happy being lumbered with a rookie partner. From such set ups, conflict and plot arise, and that is what makes writers—and hopefully readers—excited.
Yet no character can live in a vacuum. In the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, the interactions between Eliza and Wellington, are some of the most fun scenes I have ever written. My husband and co-author, Tee Morris and I love writing the banter between the two characters. The things they say to each other, the miscommunications and misunderstandings that occur between them push the plot forward. In Dawn’s Early Light, this drives Eliza to some rather extreme instances that I hope will make the readers laugh and gasp in equal measure.
Just how characters work against each other makes them more fully rounded. I always think of their family and friends, and what issues they have with them. Are they happy where they are, or do they have lofty goals that might well be doomed to failure? Mapping the cracks and flaws in a character is one of the most satisfying part of writing.
My fondest hope is that readers find my characters intriguing and remember them long after they close the page.
Pip can be found all over the internet!