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Notes on The Killing Saga

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Creating Cassie

Cassie is, quite literally, a “strong female lead”. But I wanted to veer as far away from that trope as possible. Women depicted as unblemished, capable goddesses are of no interest to me; I simply don’t identify with them.


I needed Cassie to be a normal person who also happens to be endowed with inhuman strength. Before entering the Complex, she is vain, selfish, resentful to her country and family for failing her, guilty for such resentment towards people who don’t really deserve it, and subsequently resenting them even more for making her feel such guilt.


But she’s not all bad. She loves her family (apart from her dickhead dad). She has ambition and drive to make her life better, and her family’s too. She is playful and sarcastic, intelligent and brave. I have a lot of time for Cassie. She’s lived in my head for eight years, after all.

Being physically strong and resilient to injury meant Cassie drifted closer to that boring strong female lead who is adept at battle and mostly indestructible. But suddenly becoming strong does not turn you into a martial arts expert. Cassie doesn’t know how to fight - and neither do I - so I choreographed fight scenes based on the imagery of a lumbering bear. Her moves are reactive; pushing and throwing and crushing and snapping. She makes mistakes too. Lots of them. I guess I felt like I could relate to that, being slightly accident-prone myself.


Early on, even before I really knew who Cassie was, I had a scene in my mind where the lead dramatically bursts into action to save someone held at gun-point, and they are immediately shot down. This eventually became the final battle in the Killing Shield. I wanted to build a character who could believably save the day, but who could also catastrophically fail, which meant the reader would never really know which direction the story could go.

I wasn’t too interested in Cassie’s appearance, but I felt she should be scarred – physically and mentally – by what she’d been through, and that these scars were simply part of her, not a defining feature but marks of what she had endured. Stefan and Thomas don’t love Cassie despite her scars, or even because of them. I was also careful to dress Cassie in non-descript baggy clothes (aside from the few times she ends up naked for various reasons) because I couldn’t bear for this to be made into a film (ha!) and they have the strong female lead in a tiny vest and knickers, all grimy and with impossibly wavy hair, with that eyebrow cut the action lead tends to sustain that somehow makes them look even more attractive.


No, Cassie is in loose cotton clothing and shits in a bucket and she doesn’t care what you think of her appearance.

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