Characters on the Couch: Leanna Renee Hieber’s Clara and Harold

Today I’m excited to welcome Clara and Harold, two of the main characters from Leana Renee Hieber’s Gaslamp Fantasy trilogy. I met Leanna first at DragonCon and then at last year’s Authors After Dark. She is charming and approachable, and I can’t wait to read this series!

Welcome to The Eterna Files, written by Leanna Renee Hieber, “the brightest new star in literature”(True-Blood.net)

London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire’s chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped―and has a sample of Eterna.

Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound―and the immortality it will convey―will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.

 

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Because The Eterna Files trilogy is a very character-driven historical fantasy / paranormal saga set in 1882, and it’s a large cast novel featuring two X-files kinds of teams, one in London, one in New York, I have to answer for two of my leads across the respective pond. One, twenty-nine year old New Yorker Clara Templeton, a strong-willed Clairvoyant, Spiritualist and Sensitive, who heads The Eterna Commission in New York City, a commission that began as a search for a cure for death but became the first line of defense against supernatural terrorism, and stoic Englishman Harold Spire, just as strong-willed and determined, not to mention a staunch skeptic. He is a police-chief turned paranormal officer and he doesn’t really believe one word of what he’s been summoned by Queen Victoria to pursue and protect. Their voices are very strong in my head and heart, so in some cases here I’ll answer in their voice…

Clara Templeton:

“A psychologist? Is that like a psychic? If so, I always like to talk to one of my kind. As long as they don’t summon too many ghosts, as more than five in a room has an adverse effect upon my health. If this couch has any positive effect on epilepsy I’d be much obliged.”

Harold Spire:

*scowls*

“There’s nothing that needs examining in my head, thank you very much, it’s the heads of my “superiors” that I’d recommend be thoroughly accounted for. And maybe when they came to their senses, I’d be taken off this circus of ‘paranormal’ detail and returned to blessed, solid, corporeal police work.”

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Clara Templeton:

“Oh, dear, well, The Eterna commission was my idea, and it’s been a terrible mistake and cost lives I’d never intended. I’m very internally fraught over this, but it’s the dark magic that’s now begun to unfold around the commission that presents a problem.”

Harold Spire:

“Internally, yes, I do have a problem with being appointed to a ‘paranormal’ appointment I do not support or agree with. But duty is duty and I try to keep my anger and frustration to myself, though I do believe my colleague, the astute Miss Everhart, sees through all my masks. The progressing conflicts of supernatural terror that befall my team and myself are entirely external and I hope to see their swift end.”

3. It’s always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

They would each, as polite and genteel citizens, wait to be bid to sit and only in the chair or place indicated to them. Once there, they would remain still, poised and thoughtful. Harold Spire might clench his fists if presented with a problem he could not summarily solve, Clara would fold her hands and look into the distance with a laser focus, as if searching for answers from the past lives she is connected to.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Clara Templeton: “I’ve nothing to hide about myself. I’d like to hear your thoughts, Madame Therapist, on how I might best shield my mind from an onslaught of spirits and malevolent energy, as I wish to address my most significant weakness and nip it in the bud.”

Harold Spire: *staring with steely focus* “Give me insight, please, into the mind and motives of a killer, Madame Therapist, so I may root him out from his lair and make him serve justice.”

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Clara Templeton: “I’d like a cordial, please, a soothing liqueur, something of spice and caramel.”
Harold Spire: “Pint of ale, please. Quickly.”

If Mister Spire and Miss Templeton were at the bar together, they would carefully talk business from two very different perspectives; the skeptic and the believer, and never let the alcohol dim their sharp senses or sensibilities. Both like maintaining control far too much to let any substance get the better of their meticulous awareness.

6. When you’re building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

For this book, no, my characters were plain as day to me, I know entirely who they are and if anything, I had to struggle a bit to get them to unfold some of their vulnerabilities to me. With Clara, since she is the most like me of any character I have written, I had to divorce myself from her enough to write her objectively and properly. Now that I’m writing the first draft of book 3 in the trilogy, they’re more clear and adamant than ever and I love it, especially as the two leads look at the world in opposite ways, but conduct themselves very similarly, with confident aplomb and fierce commitment to their duty.

Buy link: The Eterna Files

Thank you so much, Leanna! I enjoyed meeting your characters, and I love it when they appear fully formed in my brain, too. Good luck with this new series – I’m looking forward to reading it!

 

Actress, playwright, artist and award-winning, bestselling author Leanna Renee Hieber has written nine Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens, set in 1880s New York City and London. Her Strangely Beautiful saga hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists, garnered numerous genre awards and will reissue in a special edition from Tor/Forge in April 2016. Darker Still of her Magic Most Foul saga was a Scholastic “Highly Recommended” title and an American Booksellers Association “Indie Next List” pick. Her new Gaslamp Fantasy trilogy, The Eterna Files, an X-Files meets Penny Dreadful kind of series, is now available from Tor/Forge and the sequel, Eterna and Omega, releases August 2016. Her books have been translated into many languages such as German, Complex Chinese, and Polish. A lifelong Goth girl devoted to spreading love and understanding of Gothic literature, she is also a proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA and works as a ghost tour guide for New York City’s premiere Ghost and Macabre tour company Boroughs of the Dead. She’s been featured in several films and in television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. She’s active on Twitter @LeannaRenee, Facebook, and more about her books as well as free reads and writing resources can be found at http://leannareneehiber.com and her Gothic, Steampunk, Neoclassical art and jewelry can be found at https://etsy.com/shop/torchandarrow

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