Notes on Death Wears Hungarian Knots and Sacrifice Wields a Fork
The First Word
My inspiration for this story came from society's obsession with death. Today, there are numerous media circulating that feature death and the afterlife. I myself have always had a certain view on death; the Irish and New Orleanders have it down, celebrating at the wake, playing jazz as they leave the funeral. Death, to me, was something happy for the dead person, since they'd presumably moved on to a better place, even if their loved ones were sad they'd gone – or even devastated. I wanted to present my view to others, perhaps have them realize that there wasn't anything to cry about. It was safe to move on.The Founding of MOHL
Looking at my subject of death, I thought about the rest of the world too; the tendencies of people, the way that everything fits together so perfectly. I thought, as many others thought, 'hey, there's something else here!' Man has long entertained that a sort of higher power, or at least order, exists in the universe. I just decided to give it a name: MOHL. Management of Human Lives.
I decided, first, that the name of my ordering body had to be an acronym. Acronyms put you in the mind of some government organization, and let's face it – what else but a demented government could be able to orchestrate life, and yet not quite fix human nature? Well, I thought, if they couldn't fix human nature, maybe they couldn't understand it. Who couldn't understand human nature? Someone who wasn't human.
The irony of the thought only added to my thematic purpose, and I knew 'human' had to be somewhere in the acronym. I thought some sort of other word denoting control had to be in there somewhere too, being the governing body of Earth. Then, I thought, wouldn't it be funny to make the acronym sound like an animal name? So, mole MOHL. I'm afraid there's nothing special there. Mole was what I came up with first. So, my order word was 'management,' oh, well, 'of,' 'human,' and, what else for 'l?' Lives! It let me step back from explaining chemistry and weather patterns, focus on human beings and, as a very interesting side-note, insinuated that there were aliens somewhere else.
Back to the mechanics. I said before that only a non-human couldn't understand human nature. But I thought, I want a touch of humanity in MOHL too, otherwise it's kind of scary, and that's not what I was going for. I made a compromise; the residents of MOHL were once human, and now were slightly something else – call them ghosts, if you want.
So, I had my once human residents of MOHL that somehow governed humanity. Well, what's the basis of humanity? Emotions. Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, to have these people named after human emotions/characteristics, and have them govern that? With this planned, I made my list of all the emotions I could think of, but found out that some of them were very similar to others, and not similar enough to be ousted. I thought I'd have to have some sort of tier system to sort everything out. How was I going to do that? Ranks, I said. For the military.
It was perfect. A military sort of government would make everyone obey what they were told without question – without emotion, to further the irony. Next came my thoughts on what emotions to have, what to rank them, etc., and the result you have more or less read. But for these people to do what they do for hundreds of years and still be efficient, they shouldn't be allowed to really think for themselves. So, I said they were to have no emotion, despite governing it. I also decided that, to have no emotions, you can't hold onto anything that might instill them, like memories. So I ousted those too. These people started with a clean slate.Death
When I was thinking up his character, I just knew that something about him had to say, 'hello, I'm Death, and I rock.' Of course, I knew that death had to be a guy, since the role of men was to be the warriors in human history. He had to have some of the stereotypical Death characteristics – wear black, be kind of mysterious and spooky, but my audience also had to like him. So, in conjunction with other characters, I made him a little goofy too. And good-looking. He had to be that because he was death. Society says you're not supposed to like death, and it's hard to dislike someone who's goofy and pretty.
Of course, besides starting with an appearance, I also create a history as one of my first functions of character creation. I knew Death had to be Irish in life, because the Irish are awesome, and because they get boozed and happy at wakes. I also decided that he had to have killed a lot of people in life too, to be qualified to be Death. So he was a bandit.
Because Death was a pretty unique position, I thought that he had to have a pretty high rank. Besides, Brigadier Death sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? I thought so too. So, he's got a cool name and history, even if he doesn't remember it, so all that was left was the uniform. It had to be black, and it had to be awesome like the rest of him. I thought about what the coolest uniform I'd ever seen was, and immediately disregarded modern ones; Death was an ancient service. My cool uniform turned out to be that worn by the English riflemen in the 1800's and so. ( has a good pic.)
However, Death on his own wouldn't go anywhere. He wouldn't grow as a character, so I needed someone before Evita to come along and give him a little personality, even if he was only angry all the time. Whoever this person was would have to disappear in order for Evita to work, and the sacred words 'plot device' entered my brain; I would plant something rotten in MOHL. The stage was set for a good mystery, and Sacrifice was it.Sacrifice
When I first wrote Hungarian I didn't think about what she would look like. I knew she had to be a she, and very likable, to give the reader an idea that there may have been some romance way back when, something to make Death sore for losing her. Before writing the sequel, I just didn't give thought to the mechanics of her, so long as people knew she'd been special. When I did finally unearth her, I made her her own little contrast to go with my growing tradition of irony in the series. I gave her freckles and red hair; nothing says cute and innocent like that combination. I gave her height and an English manner to make the fiery Evita dislike her. (again with the irony.)
As I said, Sacrifice was my perfect plot device. She was likable, but a liability to MOHL's workings, since she retained her emotions. More than that, she gave Death an inkling of the dangerous emotion called love. But someone had to get rid of her; Evita needed to squeeze into the story, Death certainly wouldn't pass her on, and I still needed a villain. I decided that my villain would be the one who got rid of her. Villainy, thy name is Sensitivity.Sensitivity
I decided, against my better judgment, that he would be a stereotypical villain; a bully, a little on the fleshy side, intelligent and, best of all, hateful of Death. I knew he had to be the superior officer of the group, and Major General sounds quite menacing and powerful. He needed to have this higher rank so that Death couldn't get rid of him himself; I needed a lasting villain! And I called him Sensitivity because of how insensitive he was…or was he?Evita
Now on to everyone's favorite Spaniard. Evita's probably my favorite character ever. She loves life, she knows what's what, and she's not a sissy. More than that, though, she's also very human and very womanly. She has the body and, deep down, the mind of a human woman, subject to everything a woman falls prey to; love, hate, jealousy, hope, despair, courage. She wasn't a perfect angel either; she did hate the French for practically no reason, the English too, she had killed people, she wasn't a virgin (like so many of my other characters,) and she was arrogant.
She was a Spaniard because, during the 1800s, the Spanish were reputed to be very proud, and that's the kind of character I wanted. The Spaniards had switched sides between the French and the English, which would confuse her into disliking both and still call herself a patriot.
When I put Evita and Death in the same story, I knew it would be a good one. They had the personality types to be very annoying to each other, and I knew Evita's reaction to MOHL technology would be fun to write. I had actually planned for Evita to more or less stay on Earth when she left MOHL – there would be a tearful goodbye, Death would visit, Evita would have a kid that would start off a sequel – but I couldn't do it. I loved them too much. Theirs is the relationship that spawned one very brief, passionate fling (which happens at the end of Sacrifice,) doubtlessly triggered by Evita, but that will be as romantic as it gets. So don't bug me for any romance. It's not going to happen.Gerard
I'm not going to lie to you; I failed Gerard. He was supposed to be a more major character in Hungarian, but he wasn't interesting enough to me. He was a lot of things Deaths wasn't; he smiled, he was polite, and he was innocent. If I'd really wanted a romance in the story, Evita would have chosen him. But I didn't, and she didn't, and all was well.
I had it originally set up in my mind that they knew each other as children, maybe shared a battle or two against the French as adults, and had just never realized how often their lives were entwined. I think I always planned for him to be Sensitivity's dog, to make Evita doubt herself for liking him, and Gerard for siding with 'evil.' All plot things I never used, else the story would have been too long, and in my opinion, a good comedy, like a good joke, doesn't take long to get to the punch line.The Other Residents of MOHL
Of the Residents of MOHL, I have no favorite. The major ones, in any case, are all equally dear to me. Truth is cute, the plucky comic relief; Malevolence is like the man Death can never be, carefree and wanting to enjoy liquor and women; Kindness is like Evita, but much more snide, with a good heart somewhere to be found; Sorrow is bad-ass, and there's nothing else to really say beyond that; Lust and Romance are sort of the comic relief, like Truth, and I love that they write cheesy poetry and think it's divine; Pride is probably my least favorite, simply because there was never really much I could do with him, he was just there; Justice is similar to Pride; Charity, though I said I have no favorite, is certainly up in the running. She's borderline insane, but also motherly. She was the first person to really be kind to Evita, and everyone else at MOHL (excepting maybe Sensitivity and Ego) likes her.
Ego originated from a picture. I'd drawn a red-headed woman in a riding outfit with a rather sour expression, and instantly knew I loved the character. The picture had the name Genevieve Lis L'Egorger – l'egorger meaning 'the throat-slitter.' That's probably why I liked her so much. As a character, she ended up being the bitchy Ego, hated by Evita for being Frog…and a lawyer.
How can I not mention Pestilence? He/she/it was an inside joke off an inside joke, but I will endeavor to explain; there is a mythical creature, Pekkle no oni (the name it almost gave when identifying itself to Evita,) a little demon child thing that, in the instance of which I speak, would teleport you somewhere if you hugged it. I don't know about you, but I would not hug Pestilence even if my life depended on it. Anyway, that's the joke, much funnier if you were there.Why the 1800's?
I don't really know. The time period is fun, the uniforms are smexy, and it just fit my purposes all around.Fin
Thank you for reading these two books. I had a great time writing them and reading your reactions. For a reward, I'll write a third, and then maybe a fourth, and so on.
J'aime tout de toi.