Welcome to Author Commentary! Each month I’ll be re-reading a chapter from one of my books and talking a bit about what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I made certain choices, any easter eggs that might be hiding, research I’d done for that part, etc. This month I’m starting No Rest for the Wicked, which is available for free at your favorite e-tailer if you’d like to pick up a copy and read along.
No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 1
We open with Joanna Pearson standing outside the door of her husband’s rooms, working up the courage to knock. This is a good place to talk about the premise of this series–that one or both of the main characters in each book are the mortal, Regency incarnations of modern superheroes. Joanna is loosely based on Marvel’s Black Widow, who was trained as a Soviet spy, then switched sides and moonlights with the Avengers. This Natasha-esque character would ordinarily be calm, cool, and collected even in the face of danger, yet here she stands in a hallway trying to get a grip on the anxiety washing over her at the prospect of seeing her husband. Hopefully that tells you something about how strongly she feels about him, if not exactly what she feels for him 🙂
Before Joanna can open the door, a group of children rush out and pass her as if she’s not there. Perhaps they were used to seeing random people turn up there, or perhaps she blended in well with her surroundings. But I purposely chose to have Michael teaching in this scene because 1) it’s a great occupation (says the former teacher, lol) and 2) Catholics were banned from teaching, publicly or privately, by the Penal Laws until 1782. The story takes place in 1808 and Michael, loosely based on Daredevil, is Catholic. The fact that he’s also a lawyer comes both from his comic book counterpart and the Penal Laws, again–it only became legal for Catholics to practice law in 1793 (also the year it became legal for Catholics to enter Trinity College, Dublin, where Michael was educated thanks to an anonymous benefactor).
He spoke without turning around—he’d always been good at detecting her presence—so she addressed the back of his white linen shirt in the soft Dublin brogue she’d been practicing. “Michael. It’s been a long time.” This line in particular was meant as an homage to Joanna and Michael’s origins. He knows it’s her without looking (though in this story Michael has not yet lost his sight as Daredevil had) and she’s been working on blending in as a good spy would.
“I need to speak with the Demon of Dublin’s Hell.” I wanted rather badly to call Michael the Devil of Dublin’s Hell because the possibilities to make puns and references was practically unlimited. But there was already a devil in the real neighborhood of Dublin that was called Hell. It was a wooden statue mounted on a gate that led to Christ Church Cathedral, taken down sometime early in the Victoria era and carved into snuff boxes. So Michael became a demon instead 🙂
He took the letter and broke the wax seal, his brown eyes slowly scanning the page. “Sir Arthur Wellesley?” The future Duke of Wellington really was getting ready to disembark with his army at Cork in July 1808, and I thought he would make an excellent spymaster. If we carry the modern superhero analogy further, that would mean his grace was playing the part of Nick Fury, assembler of special teams.
…her features as placid and unrevealing as the plain black dress she wore. Double meaning there–black was for mourning, and a woman might wear black when she’d become a widow. A widow’s black for my Regency Black Widow 😉
“An associate of mine is making her way to Dublin as we speak. She can take up the Demon’s post and look after The Liberties in your absence.” Cara Campbell, who Joanna is referencing here, is an homage to Jessica Jones, whose middle name is Campbell. I chose Cara as her first name to replicate Stan Lee’s penchant for alliterative names.
“He is assembling a group of individuals…” I spent the whole day walking around saying, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative,” when I wrote this part, lol. Except I couldn’t tell anyone what I was working on at that point, so I probably sounded like a madwoman quoting and cackling!
The chapter concludes with the pair striking a deal: Michael will heed his invitation from Sir Arthur and travel with Joanna to Cork, while Joanna promises to explain her 5-year absence after their business has been seen to.
She stood beside him, the top of her head barely reaching his chin. In my head, Joanna looks like Scarlett Johansson and Michael like Charlie Cox, neither of whom are overly tall. But in the comics, Daredevil is something like 6’4″ so that’s what I went with that for this story. The comics are also where the pairing came from–Black Widow and Daredevil have never even met in the TV/movie side of things, but they were an item in print 🙂