I remember the day I started planning my newest novel, Midnight at the Neon Tiger. I was at work on a quiet Saturday, sitting on the computer at the back desk trying to formulate an idea for a novel. I’d been in a rut for awhile and after striking out with my fantasy manuscript too many times, I decided I wanted to write something completely out of my comfort zone. For me, that’s sci-fi.
It’s not that I don’t love sci-fi! I do! I just had it in my head that I was too scientifcally illiterate to write it. I’m also very picky when it comes to sci-fi. The Mass Effect trilogy is my favorite video game series of all time, and “softer” sci-fi like Warcross by Marie Lu really resonate with me, too. Keeping that in mind, I set out to write my very own science fiction novel, only slightly terrified that I was going to write something awful.
It all started the night before. I had a dream about a man with a metal arm and a sleeve of tattoos. I thought he looked cool and knew I had to include him in a novel. Why not my sci-fi one? His name was Wolf, I decided, because I can’t write anything without a lupine character in it, and I knew from the start that he was Asian. Korean, specifically. I don’t know if my decision to make him the novel’s equivalent of Korean came from my ravenous consumption of Korean media or because of something else entirely, but Wolf has always been Korean in my head. Additionally, Neon Tiger has strong Korean influences woven into its world building, not just because I have a deep appreciation for the culture as an author, but because I wanted Wolf’s background to be important to the story, as well as visible in a way that he couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.
Now that I had Wolf in my head, I knew I needed a main character. Being disabled myself, I always tend to make my main characters in my novels disabled as well. So I had that going for me, at least. Main Character is Disabled. Great. But how? I knew I wanted to reflect my own struggles with cerebral palsy in this character. I also knew I didn’t want to use the term cerebral palsy, since that wouldn’t exist in my sci-fi world. I also knew I wanted her disability to be deliberately vague. So many people look at me and think I’m able-bodied, but if you look closely enough, you’ll see the hitch in my step. The crooked bone in my leg. Though my cerebral palsy is mild, I’ve always felt too disabled for able-bodied people, too able-bodied for disabled people. Which is how I wanted to approach my MC’s disability.
I finally landed on giving her leg braces, the kind I once wore when I was a kid to keep my legs straight and to keep myself from falling every time I moved at a pace faster than a walk. With that in mind, I ventured to give this character a name. The name Selene had always appealed to me for the moon association, and with Wolf as her love interest, it felt perfect. Evander came about after some scrolling through Behind the Name, which is a great resource if you’re looking for some naming inspiration.
I had Selene and Wolf, two of the most important characters in the novel. I didn’t have their motivations yet, or even an idea of the world they lived in, but they were the start. Everything else was built around their characters.
STAY TUNED FOR PT. 2…