MY CHARACTERS ARE NOT ME: But They Are The Questions in My Head
Today, a reader asked me about the source of the Gansey family wealth, and as I answered her, I thought about why Gansey is who he is, and why I wrote his family’s wealth, and what was I trying to explore when I invented him. Because there were ten thousand ways to write Gansey, and I chose this one: why?
It’s because Gansey is not me — none of the characters are truly me — but they do exist to answer questions in my head. Sometimes I write them because I think I already know the answer, and I’m showing my work. But sometimes I’m hoping to find the answer through my writing. For instance, the characters in the Raven Cycle:
GANSEY: I am not filthy rich. I was not born into old money. But I was born into all kinds of privilege, especially educational privilege. My mother taught me music from the moment I could read. My father has an encyclopedic knowledge of history and a love of reading and made sure that he passed that on. There is so much to be said for not having to reinvent the wheel, and the educational advantages that I took for granted when I was eight are now glaringly obvious to me. So Gansey — well, that part of Gansey, the questions of privilege and what you owe the world when you have it — started there.
RONAN: I am not an angry gay street-racing Catholic boy. But I was an angry street-racing teen who fought with her body, and I grew up fervently Catholic, and I had all sorts of beliefs about myself and gender and everything else that did not play well with Catholicism. Ronan — parts of him — are questions I asked when I was a teen and still ask now.
BLUE: I am not the only non-seer in a family of seers. But I, a consummate non-specialist, a professional dabbler, am so used to finding myself in a world full of language I understand but do not own. When I was in a rally car, I engaged with cars in a very different way from those who lived and breathed rally. When I was in a Celtic band, I did so with a German last name and the knowledge that I couldn’t really claim the music because the blood in my veins was from the wrong place. I am always finding myself places where I possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the elements at play — but know I don’t really belong. But what is belonging? Blue asks that question for me.
ADAM: I was not born in a trailer, nor was I abused. But I have been very poor with very not poor friends. I have been not poor with very poor friends. I have been given opportunities to get ahead by jumping the line and I have watched what happened when I turned them down. I’ve also given people opportunities to jump the line and seen what happens to both of us when they take them (or not). Adam is the Gansey question turned inside out. Also, I have also been super shitty to friends and had them be super shitty to me — how shitty can you be to each other and still be friends? Can you afford to give your whole heart to a someone who doesn’t have blood ties or other debts to you? Adam — and the rest of the characters in the Raven Cycle, really — ask this question.
NOAH: Asks the question of why glitter and kittens are so great.
So, readers are always asking me which character I relate to the most, but that’s really not the best question. I relate to all of them, or I wouldn’t be writing them — I’d choose a different camera to point at the story. The question, I guess is: why these cameras? What are you trying to look at, Stiefvater?