[Cross-posted from its original publication on the Fifty Shades of Geek website, here]
The guys at Fifty Shades asked me if I’d write a little piece on how I approached writing Valkia the Bloody. Here is that piece, with additional ridiculousness.
“Um…” said my editor, a heavy pause at the end of his words, “you don’t actually mind writing about a girl do you?”
When the girl in question happened to be Valkia the Bloody, there was never any chance I was likely to turn it down, was there? I mean come on, look at her. This is a woman who struts around the Warhammer universe armed with a killer spear and a shield adorned with the head of an upstart Slaaneshi daemon. This is not your average fantasy female heroine. For a start, she has sensible armour.
At the same time, when I was planning out her story, there were a few things I set out to show. This was not just going to be a book about how astonishingly kick ass Valkia can be. This was going to be a book that showed how she ended up as Khorne’s consort; about what it was she possessed that made the Blood God sit up straighter in his skull throne (he is prone to slouching, you see) and pay close interest to her. After all, there are many champions and heroes in the Old World. Why this woman in particular? So I sat down with a pen and a bit of paper. After doodling endless eyes and cubes, I started to get inside her head. Who was Valkia the Bloody? What made her tick? She needed to come to life and so here’s the process that took her to the feet of the Blood God.
To start with, Valkia needed a family. She needed people around her to offset the sparkle of her homicidal brilliance and she needed a LBK. (Life Before Khorne). So I gave her a father, but not a mother. Without a mother’s guiding hand and a father who was the tribe’s chieftain, Valkia was always going to lean towards tomboyish; a young woman who resented the idea that the only route to battle for her was as a shield bearer. So from the very beginning of the book, Valkia takes charge of her own destiny. Even as a child who sits on her father’s shoulders and marvels at the wonders of the aurora, Valkia knows that she wants more out of life than to just ‘stand at the side of her men’. She wants to lead. She wants to be all she can be – and more.
When faced with a seductive daemon, she almost gives into base feminine urges and desires that she believed she had overcome. There must have been immense satisfaction in nailing his head to a shield afterwards.
She takes what she wants and rarely gives thought to the consequences. Or does she? Perhaps it’s more that she takes what she wants regardless of the consequences.
Wait, hang on. This woman is starting to sound like she is everything I’m not. I would never take what I wanted without written requests signed in triplicate and even then, I’d be apologising the whole time… and there, gentle readers, is the crux of the matter. Valkia is all those things that I wish I could be. Apart from the mad killing machine, naturally. That bit’s sort of… tacked on at the end. But she’s confident, capable, knows what she wants, she’s strong and relentless… and yet, in order to make her more of a person, she also has weaknesses and vulnerabilities during her
So Valkia has foibles and chinks in her sensible armour. These are exploited by a few people – and daemons – in her tale. The self-realisation of this drives her to an effort to divest herself of her perceived weaknesses. She becomes cold and closed to all those around her, even her own children. She moves from being a woman driven by passion to a woman driven by bloodlust. Before Khorne takes her up to his realm and recreates her, Valkia has already become a daemon in many ways. The useful addition of wings and claws is merely cosmetic.
She was a joy to create. The world around her grew naturally to fit her Viking-esque style and those who followed her took on life and personalities of their own. One in particular – a young tribesman named Kormak – was originally meant to appear in one scene and only then to lose his
arm. He became something entirely different. And entirely awesome.
She led me on a remarkable journey, this self-confident, unbreakable woman. Even when her own mortality was being hacked away, she does not give up. Even when she is completely beaten, her last breath contains defiance and strength. She sort of became my hero for a few months. When writing any character, it’s always a pleasure to let yourself slip into their heads, to wear their shoes (or power armour) and live their lives through your fingertips. Valkia, although cosmetically a ‘bad guy’ is a powerful, focused woman who knows her own mind and sets out with a belief that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
In the context of Valkia’s world, that’s not such a bad thing to be.