Call of the Delphinidae

Behind the Scenes


WARNING - The following material contains spoilers. If you've not yet read the book, proceed at your own peril!


Perhaps even more so than its predecessor, Call of the Delphinidae is about people, and even though it does have its fair share of action and adventure, it's the characters that make the story, at least in my mind. So come with me now as I take you into the dressing room where you can meet some of the cast and perhaps get to know them a little better.

Mary Anderson, the central character of the story, was the daughter of a simple vegetable-grower in the village of Bringal Vale on Bluehaven. Her friends would have described her as a bit of a dreamer, flowing through her childhood in tune with the slow pace of village life, and she probably would have spent her days as someone's housewife, most likely Ron's, had she not forgotten her shoes on the morning of that fateful school excursion.
    We first met Mary in Part Four of Barefoot Times, when Julia took Jason to the hospital to see Aaron after his bike accident. She came into the story again in Part Seven, when we discovered something of her origins and mission. At the time I wrote that I was merely looking for a way of explaining Aaron's Elvish genes and the role he was destined to play as Jason's guardian and Mark's guide, but it turned out to be a wonderful platform from which to launch the sequel.
    Mary's life has been tormented with guilt, both over leaving Ron and baby Kevin to go on her mission and, later on, over her treatment of Bobby, and so there remains a question mark in my mind as to whether she will truly find happiness with Ron in the college on Earth. She has begun to suspect something of Hilda's involvement in Bobby's death, and perhaps once she's put two and two together this will ease her mind. If Ron were to find out, though...

Brian Lachlan found his place in the story when I realised Mary needed a friend to break her out of the watch-house and aid her in her flight to the Delphinidae Temple. I saw him as a popular student at school, quite possibly the class captain, and a hard-worker with academic strengths in subjects like history and economics. He was the quintessential pragmatist, with little time for the ponderings of the Delphinidae or the feeble efforts of the Resistance at overthrowing the empire. As much as he disliked Morgoth and his tyrannical government, he believed change would have to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and would come from within the system rather than without.
    It was very early in my writing that I realised Brian would ultimately become the Bluehaven Director of Justice who sentenced Kevin to death just before the arrival of Mark in Part Seven of Barefoot Times, and included Ron's premonition of this when he falls asleep in the library. It seemed a neat way of tying Brian in as one of the unnamed characters in that book.
Ron Simmons
was a late-starter in the story, and was only introduced when I began writing in earnest and realised the early chapters would work better with a threesome rather than just Mary and Brian. I'd envisaged him as something like Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series, although the choice of name on that basis was never a conscious decision - if I recall correctly his name was actually inspired by the character Ronder from Raymond Feist's book Talon of the Silver Hawk. I initially saw him as just Brian's loyal offsider and the butt of his teasing about his religious beliefs, although right from the beginning his strong moral fibre as a Delphinidae devotee was evident. That he would ultimately become in his own way the hero of the story never occurred to me until the writing was almost complete.
    It hadn't been my intention for there to be a romantic entanglement between Ron and Mary until they'd arrived at the Temple and it became too obvious to ignore. I'd become fond of the characters that Ron and Brian had developed into through the early chapters, and didn't want to cast them aside once the action moved to Earth, so the letters between Ron and Mary allowed me to keep them in the story while at the same time providing a convenient means of conveying the developments that were taking place in Mary's home galaxy.
    In my original draft it had been Brian who'd gone to Mary's aid when she stumbled down the steps after her interrogation by Morgoth, but when revising I realised that it really should have been Ron and that this was the first revelation of something more than just friendship between them.

Morgoth the Enlightened is well-known as The Enemy from Part Six of Barefoot Times, and we see a lot more of him and the machinations of his government in this book. I sometimes wonder if perhaps he might have been right, and that peace can only be maintained in his galaxy through the use of extreme brute force, and I suspect this question will be one of the major themes in the next book. While I don't want this story to be seen to be an allegory to the events in Iraq, and certainly Part Six of Barefoot Times was written well before the U.S.-led occupation, I think there are definitely similarities.
    I enjoyed describing Morgoth's downfall through his own eyes, right to the point where his spirit disappeared into Sheol on its way to the River Styx and the City of Towers beyond, and I hope this worked for you, the reader. My reference to the sound of bagpipes as his consciousness dissolved away is suggestive of a possible encounter with Pedro, but that's another story! I'm not sure why I put it in there, only that it just felt right at the time, and perhaps it will come in handy in book three.

Brett Farley was introduced in Part Seven of Barefoot Times as Morgoth's former shaman and leader of the imperials. In Part Six of that book, Peter said that even the most terrible despots began with the best of intentions to do what they believed to be good, however Brett is the exception to that rule. He is best described as the boy who wanted to be bad, and at an early age eagerly filled the vacant role of school bully even though his lack of physical strength at the time made him rather ineffectual. His falling in with Morgoth at the expense of his father seemed only natural for him, and his development into the shaman we saw in Barefoot Times was an enjoyable sub-story to write in Call of the Delphinidae.

Bobby Smith was always going to be torn between his love for Mary and his love for beer. In my early thoughts he was to have been a much darker character, given to physical abuse of both Mary and Aaron, but as I began to tell his story I realised he was more the tragic victim in this tale, used and abused by both his friend Graham and his wife Mary to further their own ends. In the opening of Part 1, Mary sees a flash of him holding her by the shoulders and shaking her violently, and this scene actually takes place following Graham's arrest in the smoke bomb incident, but it's the only time he ever lets the conflict within him drive him to physical violence.
    We also learnt a little of Bobby in Barefoot Times, although he was only ever referred to as Aaron's father and was never graced with a name in that book. We discovered that he was an alcoholic, a trait which he had passed down to Aaron, and that he probably had a short fuse. I got the impression, though, that in spite of this Aaron still loved and respected him and perhaps that's why I couldn't quite make him the villain I'd originally seen him as in this story.
    I always suspected he wouldn't live to see the end of the book, but the manner of his death eluded me until the final weeks of writing. Tying it back to the incident with Aaron's bike was one of those little flashes of inspiration that just feel so right afterwards, and it seemed appropriate that the darkest day of his life should come back to haunt him at the end.

Frank Halliday was first introduced in Part Eight of Barefoot Times as the mysterious man behind the scenes of much that had been going on in that story. He had opportunity and motive to be waiting by the portal for Mary to arrive on Earth and so was the logical choice to fill that role.
    Born almost two hundred years earlier on Cornipus, he is a much-diluted descendent of one of the ancient Barefooters and this heritage has given him a lifespan that, barring accident or assassination, should see him continuing his work for at least another fifty years. As we'll discover in book three, his father died in suspicious circumstances and his journey to Earth was as much a flight of survival as for academic study.
    Frank's ultimate goal in his search for the descendents of the Barefooters remains something of a mystery, and I expect this will be an important theme in the next book.

Aaron Smith was well developed in Barefoot Times, but I took the opportunity in Call of the Delphinidae to study his character a little more and to reveal something of his childhood and symbiotic relationship with Jason. He was one of my favourite characters in Barefoot Times, even though I was constantly trying to kill him off, and his return in this book was one of my motivations for writing it.
    This story also gave me the opportunity to flesh out some of the interesting little side-stories that were mentioned in Barefoot Times, such as his relationship with Mandy, the events on the roof of the Grand Hotel and his cricketing career.
    The chapter A Funeral Foreseen always bothered me as it's essentially a retelling of part five of Barefoot Times from Aaron's point of view, and I'm still not entirely happy with it. I needed the confrontation with the Empress in the alternate reality, though, to explain Aaron's crucial words to Mark that led to the fulfilment of the prophecy ("Remember your father and the Empress. Don't let that happen again."). I hope it didn't confuse those new to the Barefoot Times universe too much, or bore those who've read the earlier book.

Christopher Smith was originally going to play a much greater role in Part Four of Call of the Delphinidae. As the Grandchild of Renewal, I'd envisaged at least some of that part being devoted to a new adventure for him, possibly aiding Frank Halliday in his search for the lost Barefooters. As the writing progressed, though, it became apparent that it was focussing more on Ron and Mary, and by the time Brett Farley had been disposed of and they had been reunited on Shimmel, having Chris go off on some new mission seemed tangential to the wrapping up of the story. What I had in mind for Chris has now become the basis of book three, though, so all is not lost.

Damon Enderling's appearance in Call of the Delphinidae was problematic for me, and I'm still not entirely sure I did the right thing in bringing him in the way I did. He is the fulfilment of Chris's mission as Grandchild of Renewal, and that theme would have been lost without him, but at the same time much of what needed to be said is repetitious of Part Nine of Barefoot Times. Nonetheless in telling that story from both Frank's and Damon's perspectives we learn more of their characters and that's probably a good thing. I must admit also that Damon's chapter is very much a springboard for what I envisage will be in the third book of the series, and the final dialog between Frank and Kevin I feel justifies its inclusion.

Pip Ingle was mentioned briefly in passing in Part Nine of Barefoot Times, and I felt he needed a bit more of an introduction in this book. I've described him as having a mild disability as a way of explaining why he alone has remained friends with Damon in spite of his strangeness. In hindsight this was probably inspired by the movie Digger, although Pip's disability is muscular rather than cardiac in nature. He comes very much into his own in the third book, and is in many ways the hero of that story, so I really shouldn't say too much more about him here.

Hilda Simmons' character evolved and grew as my writing progressed, from the nameless priestess in Golding to her final role in death in bringing Ron and Mary back together again.
    The manner of her demise wasn't really planned much beforehand, but when the moment arose during the battle I took advantage of the stray bullet to remove one of the obstacles to Ron and Mary's reunion. Her posthumous role also evolved as it went along, and it was her appearance before Brian at the River Styx that gave me the idea of using her as the instrument of Bobby's death.
    I believe she was motivated solely by her love for Ron, although the Epilogue perhaps raises a question of whether she was acting as an agent for Morgoth or Farley. That wasn't my intention when I wrote it, but on rereading it I was given some cause to wonder, and so added Morgoth's final question ("Now I wonder what she's up to?") to discourage that line of thinking.
    In the second part of book three we return to the River Styx and the Divot City Championships where we'll find out just what it is she's really up to.

I hope you've enjoyed meeting some of the cast, and they look forward to seeing you again in the next instalment of the series. Speaking of which, have I whet your appetite enough? Would you like a sneak preview of book three? Click here if you're game...