In our weekly newsletter we run a lot of surveys. Last week we asked you which ZPA characters you liked the best. We thought we would share the results with you but also some of our thoughts on these characters from our perspective. Enjoy!
Damian: Elliot is where ZPA started for me. I really had no idea what I’d write until I saw the blank first page. And Elliot ending on top of the tower at Magdalen college was the first thing that came to my mind. I like Elliot because his prime moral motivation is justice, he just doesn’t start out with the wisdom to be able to be fair.
Andrew: Elliot is like a ton of TNT with a lit fuse, except that the TNT is a teenager with a sword. Elliot is searching for his place in the world and trying to come to terms with his past. He’s looking for a family, for something to hold on to. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) he runs into Arthur. Damian writes all the first drafts of Elliot, but I enjoy adding to him during the writing process.
Damian: I liked Arthur from the start. He is such a real person, living it a screwed up situation. The first scene that really drew me into him was where he drunkenly phoned his ex-wife to try and sort things out.
Andrew: Arthur is the first character I wrote for ZPA. He is what immediately came into my mind. He’s a hero. A true hero. He served in the armed forces and nearly died and he’s been through a lot. More than anyone should have to go through. For me the key to him is that he does not give up, even if he wants to. He just keeps on going because it is the right thing to do.
Damian: Gunther is an odd one. When Andrew told me about how he’d enter the story it sounded like a great idea. He also said he’d be dead by the end of the first book, but we both liked him so much that didn’t happen. Will he survive the series? You’ll have to wait and see.
Andrew: I dreamed up Gunther initially as a foil for Arthur in Splice. My plan was for him to betray Arthur (yet another time Arthur was handed a bad lot). Gunther would die by the end of book 1. That’s what I said. Yeah, I was wrong. He’s still around and more awesome than ever. Learning about his past has been an excavation worthy of an entire archaeological expedition, but it has been a fun ride so far. I foresee more in Gunther’s future. Let’s see what happens!
Damian: Haha, now we’re talking. Millicent took shape in the novelette, Siege. She found herself in a seriously messed up situation and after getting a serious head injury, somehow the alien force of the sphere healed her brain but put it in a hyper-defensive mode as a self defense mechanism. To pretty much everyone she’s a psychopath, and a smart and effective spy/assassin. I love how aggressive she is and her willingness to transgress the normal bounds of decency to get the job done.
Andrew: I first encountered Millicent the way I expect most of our readers did, in the novella Siege. Millicent is a teenager who has a lot thrown at her very quickly and due to some particularly nasty circumstances she ends up… well, cracking. What I love about her is her loyalty to Gunther and the juxtaposition of that against her willingness to do whatever it takes to get a mission done. She will kill without compunction, but she has a soft spot in her heart for the man who brought her up.
Damian: I love it when I get the chance to write Stanley. From the start I’ve seen him more as a psychologically caged in human than anything else, although one with extreme intelligence and a questioning mind. One that has no obligation to flatter or pamper anyone with even a half-truth. To me, Stanley represents the Emersonian ideals.
Andrew: Stanley is my favorite character to write. He comes from a short story I originally wrote years ago, an uplifted orangutan dealing with questions of his humanity and his intelligence and with themes of the expectations of society and humanity. When it came to ZPA, he was perfect and he’s quickly found a place in the team, bashing down doors (ripping up light posts) and generally having a great time munching on mangoes. But it is the deeper question of what makes a person human and what that means that haunts him and it has been great fun writing that.
Damian: Who doesn’t like Nel? She’s a great comedic foil for almost every other character, so it’s great to have her jumping around from time to time so she can threaten everyone with a kick in the face.
Andrew: Nel is a bit of a one-trick pony but it’s a hell of a trick and it cracks me up every time (and no, we’re not going to stop with the Nel gag. We enjoy it too much.) Nel is interesting to me because she has a background very much like Elliot. She’s a total psycho in many ways, brought up to be an assassin and trained by a curmudgeonly old woman she calls Nana. But unlike Elliot, there’s more humanity to Nel. She’s more comfortable in her skin than he is and that contrast against Elliot is infinitely fascinating to me. All of that is a long-winded way of saying that Nel is going to be kicking a lot more people in the face before this is over.
Damian: Kat has really been Elliot’s defender through most of the novels and has sat somewhat in the background as another smart resource for the team, and a romantic foil for Arthur and Millicent. But she will come into her own in the later books and second season.
Andrew: Kat is a mother (in a way) or a sister to Elliot. But can she be more? We think the answer is a resounding, Yes! So watch this space to see how Kat grows into her own in the team.
Damian: Elliot’s target for boyfriend. I think he’s been a wonderful person for Elliot to bounce of off as he’s wise and trustworthy. And also a voice outside of the team, something Elliot needs more and more as the story develops.
Andrew: I originally thought Arlo was creepy. Yes, I said it. He seemed too old to be hanging around someone as mentally undeveloped as Elliot, but he’s really grown into a friend for Elliot when he had no one else and I think that kind of mentorship is important in the world (something we as a society are lacking these days). Arlo is kind-hearted and he wants what is best for Elliot and I think it shows in how he comes across (at least I hope it does).
Damian: The thing about these characters is that they all grew in the telling. As the world developed and came into focus for us, the characters really took shape. Each of them has a unique take on the world and an inner struggle which plays throughout the series. That’s something we didn’t want to shy away from as we wrote these novels. We wanted people to relate in some way to every character, even the orangutan.
(Okay, that’s a cop out. Here are some final thoughts: We are still writing these books so these characters will continue to develop. We are also writing other pieces about their backstories and history. If there are characters you would like to learn more about, drop us a line and let us know. You never know, we might just write a story about them just for you.)