Mad about Medea
Originally, I only had three ideas about the character; that she would be very much a supporting role; that she would be a witch (I thought it would be handy to have someone with that kind of power in the story) and that she would be called Medea. The name, of course, comes from Greek legend: Medea was the wife of Jason (of the Argonauts / Golden Fleece fame) who, in revenge for him abandoning her, murders the children the two of them had together. In many versions of this story she is a witch, or priestess of Hecate, so the name both ties into the history of witchcraft but is also a warning of the consequences of using it for dark purposes, as Medea committed the ultimate crime. I liked the idea of someone who had chosen such a name for herself: what was she trying to say? What kind of person would do that?
The answer came as I started writing, and realised that a woman like Medea would never be confined to the side-lines. Slowly, her character started to form. I wanted her to be a woman of colour, because London is a multicultural city, and it made no sense to have all my characters be white; I made her Indian partly in tribute to some close friends of mine, partly out of laziness – since that meant I could ask them any questions I needed to about Indian culture or the Hindu religion! But I also made her mixed race because I liked the idea of a character who is more than she appears, and who deliberately plays with people’s expectations of her: as a beautiful woman, who likes to emphasize the ‘exotic’ nature of her looks, she’s well aware of how people judge her, but underneath the glamour is the down-to-earth practicality that comes from being the child of two doctors, and the no-nonsense, slightly cynical outlook that comes from a Scottish upbringing. (I lived in Scotland a long time, and love the dry, sometimes spiky, Scottish outlook on life!)
Then I made her gay. This was initially nothing more than a sly nod to one of fiction’s greatest witches, Willow from Buffy, and a recognition of the fact that it’s a rare Londoner whose circle doesn’t include any gay people, so I wanted to reflect that in the novel. But it was actually this that was the tipping point in writing the character – because as I gave her a girlfriend, Katie, and had to think about their relationship, about what kind of person she was outside of the office, she suddenly became very real, and compelling. And I realised that one of the things I don’t like in female-led novels is that so often the protagonists don’t have proper female friendships, and I wanted my book to be different. The heroine, Cassandra, starts off quite isolated – her relationship with Medea is strictly that of colleagues – but over the course of the book they become real friends, and Medea welcomes Cass into her and Katie’s lives.
The fact that she was a Wiccan really influenced her behaviour. I didn’t do a huge amount of research – most of my information came from other books, or a couple of Wiccans I have some connection with online – but I had no intention of going into great detail about Medea’s practising. But the sense of Wicca as a belief system that is based around respect, tolerance and openness, and a connection with nature, is important to both the character and the book, which has a strong focus on the belief that people – and, as it’s an urban fantasy, this includes vampires! – should be judged on who they are and what they do, not factors that they can’t control like race, sex, sexuality or – again, urban fantasy! - species. Medea is general unfazed by life, but she’s also slightly softer than Cass, who can be a bit hard-nosed about things. She’s also very non-judgemental: when there’s a major reveal about one of the characters that freaks Cass out, Medea simply accepts it as it is, and she doesn’t judge Cass over the complications of her romantic life or her occasional bad decisions, so she’s the perfect foil to Cass’s tendency to fret.
I’m writing the sequel to Dark Dates now, and much of the story revolves around Medea and Katie’s background, and this spreads a lot more light on how Medea’s Craft has influenced her life, and how she ended up at Dark Dates. But one thing’s for certain: she’s no sidekick, no supporting character – this is one witch who’s got me under her spell.
Author: Tracey Sinclair
Reading Level: Adult
Reading Level: Adult
Release Date: April 3rd 2012
Size: 246 pages
All Cassandra Bick wants is to be left to get on with doing her job. But when you’re a Sensitive whose business is running a dating agency for vampires, life is never going to be straightforward – especially when there’s a supernatural war brewing in London, a sexy new bloodsucker in town and your mysterious, homicidal and vampire hating ex-lover chooses this moment to reappear in your life…
Witty, sharp and entertaining, Dark Dates is a heady mix of vampires, witches and werewolves – with the occasional angel thrown in – and introduces Cassandra Bick, a likeable heroine destined to join the ranks of fantasy’s feistiest females.
“There’s been another murder.”
Well, that wasn’t the greeting I expected as I walked into my office. I put down the tray of coffees and pastries and scowled at Medea, my assistant, waiting for some further explanation. I realised that, far from imparting some cosmically divined information or making a psychic pronouncement of doom, she actually had the London news up on her computer screen, and indeed, another body had been found in a back alley near Covent Garden. It was the third in a fortnight, and the first two had already got the city nervous and wondering. Since both victims were men, the police were currently positing the theory of gang violence (London’s current Big Bad) or robberies gone too far, while trying to strike the right balance of being concerned but not scaring the tourists, but the tabloids seemed keen to flog a more sensational angle and were darkly hinting at serial killing. It says something about the modern world, I suppose, that two murders on their own weren’t sensational enough.
I looked over her shoulder at the screen: below that story, as if to back up the police’s theory, there was an appeal for witnesses to a gang-related shooting that left a 12 year old in a coma, and a morally outraged op-ed piece about the lenient sentence given to two teenagers who had stomped on a gay man’s head until he died. See what I mean? Never mind the monsters. It’s people who suck. Despite this torrent of misery, I tried to keep my voice cheery.
“You shouldn’t read the papers first thing, it’s too depressing.”
She gave me a small smile, reaching gratefully for the pastry and the coffee. Maybe it was being the child of people who healed sickness for a living, but Medea had an ability to empathise with the everyday tragedies of the city that eluded me – and here was me, the Sensitive. Maybe she was just a nicer person than I was.
“That makes you sound old.”
“The news makes me feel old,” I conceded, and her smile warmed.
“Well, the good thing about this job is you’re a spring chicken compared to most of the clients.”
“Problem is all of them still look younger than me.”
Most people I know have a witch or two in their office, but mine is one of the few who will happily admit to it. Strictly speaking, of course, she’s a Wiccan, a white witch – I’m not having anyone into the black arts on my payroll – but Medea’s equally at ease with the more common epithet. Then again, she’s a woman who isn’t put out by much. Her name, for a start. I know that’s the name on her paycheques (the only name – sometimes I feel like I’m employing Cher), but I’m never sure whether the Greek tragedy moniker is self-styled or if her parents just had a very odd sense of humour, because Medea rarely lets slip anything about herself. I know very little about her beyond the fact that she is a little older than I am, and she has lived in London ten years, but was raised in Scotland: she is mixed race and the child of two doctors. What such down-to-earth careerists thought of their daughter’s less than conventional beliefs I often wondered, but never dared ask, and though she spoke of them rarely, it was always with fondness. Her Indian mother presumably being the one bequeathing her the extraordinary beauty and skin you would weep for, her Scottish father the ability to drink most people under the table and the capacity for unexpectedly creative swearing – unless they were a much stranger couple than I assumed and it was the other way round – while their combined genetic smartypantsness no doubt contributed to the fact that Medea also has a fierce intelligence that often makes me regret my own abandoned education. Yes, she’s clever and pretty: I know, I know, I’m a masochist. But we got talking one day when I went into the occult bookshop where she used to work – where I had gone in search of some texts that might illuminate my own condition – and there was something about her that made me like her instantly, and, more important, realise she could be a great asset to my then-fledgling business. She looks the part, certainly, though maybe not the way you’re expecting. None of that hippy-dippy tie-dye shit for Medea: her look is pure Willow gone bad. If the short lived union of Marilyn Manson and Dita von Teese had produced progeny, Medea might be it – tall, slender and corseted to emphasise her killer curves, she’s Mad Men meets Bollywood meets burlesque, and she shimmers round the office with a poise and glamour I couldn’t dream of aspiring to. Sometimes clients are so dazzled by her that they sign up to the whole package without even knowing what they are doing. My instincts were right – in the entertaining business it never hurts to hire a looker, and if you can get one who is also jam-packed with smarts and not likely to faint when she realises who the clients are, that’s even better.
None of which would be worth the daily dose of ego-destroying comparison were it not for the fact that she is also a lot of fun to hang out with. She might play her cards close to her chest, but she has a dry, sly sense of humour, a surprisingly dirty laugh and she always knows when it’s time for a cake run. That’s why I keep her around.
I watched her decant her coffee into the mug she kept in the office - you would imagine she would drink from fine china, but this was actually a big white mug emblazoned with the letters WWGWD ( I was always scared to ask what they meant in case they stood for a spell that would turn me into something nasty). She took a mouthful of scalding hot liquid from this un-Medea-like incongruity and made a grateful sound as the initial shot of caffeine hit her. I took that as my cue to leave her to it for a while, and went through to my office. As ever, the first thing to do was sort through the usual pile of bills and fliers, and scan through my emails, leaving her to self-caffeinate. Neither Medea nor I are particularly morning people, but it wasn’t long till Halloween – one of our busiest times of the year, of course – so both of us were putting in the extra hours, and I thought it diplomatic not to expect proper conversation as soon as I walked through the door. Normally I rarely spent time in my private office unless I was seeing clients – and even then it was about giving them privacy rather than imposing any boss-employee hierarchy: many of my clients are the sort who don’t even want someone who looks like Medea to overhear their secrets. And, perversely, while a beautiful woman might be an asset at the front desk or a party, she can be at a disadvantage when it comes to my job – no one wants to admit to being a dateless loser in front of a smoking hot babe. But when I wasn’t with clients, I mostly just hung around the front office with her: I hired extra help for parties or events, of course, but most of the time we were a two-woman band. When we’re busy, we’re really busy, but a lot of the time there are lulls when we have plenty of time to chat. Sometimes I think I pay Medea because it’s cheaper than what I would spend on internet shopping if she weren’t here to distract me.
Tracey Sinclair works as freelance copywriter, editor and legal directories consultant. A diverse and slightly wandering career has included writing factsheets for small businesses, creating web content for law firms, subtitling film and TV and editing one of the UK’s largest legal directories. A keen blogger, she regularly writes for online theatre site Exeunt and science fiction site Unleash the Fanboy and her blog Body of a Geek Goddess was shortlisted in the Cosmopolitan Blogger Awards 2011. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies and her short play Bystanders was premiered in 2011 as part of the CP Players New Writing Season at Baron’s Court Theatre, London. She has published two small press books (Doll and No Love is This, both Kennedy & Boyd) and is now dipping a toe in the digital self-publishing world with her new urban fantasy novel, Dark Dates.