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Tumblr asks: why Talis

I take public asks on my Tumblr, and this one came from thinwhiteduchess. Seems worth reblogging myself:

Ok so I just had to ask. How did you come up with a character like Talis? He is such a complex mix of human and machine, of good and evil, of somberness and pain and also joy. Also please tell me there is going to be a sequel and that we are going to get more backstory on him in the sequel! Thank you :)

So this might be disappointing, but I can’t tell you much about where Talis came from. He just came. (Most of my characters just come – I work on plot, but not really characters. They seem real to me and my job is to stay true to them.) I can tell you that Talis wasn’t in the original draft. The UN was just the UN, and the Abbot was just an artificial intelligence (not transhuman). One of my early readers wanted to know how the Abbot knew so much, and how the UN got all the rulers to buy in, and the answer to those two questions is boils down to “Talis.”

Still, I didn’t know much about him until he rode over that hill. There was a second draft where he was so minor that Elian had never heard of him and the others spent time explaining who he was. But you’ll notice he tends to steal the scene … he became more important in each passing draft.

My subconscious is smarter than I am, because I think the book needs Talis. The Evil System ™ in The Scorpion Rules is supposed to be both brutal and right – or at least arguably right. After all, it’s actually working to keep global peace, which is a decent deal for everyone except these seven particular kids. Talis is in-universe the mind behind it, but in the narrative he works as the face of it, so it’s important that he be both human and machine, both unforgivably terrible and (as he modestly notes) profoundly compelling. I think it’s safe to say I’m not done with him. And, yes, there is a companion book. It’s just heading to a very final final set of edits, and should be out next fall.

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