One of the biggest influences on Raena Zacari is a character developed by my friend Martha Allard. She’s the creator of Doctor Cyn Sharpe, a human medic who got caught up in the War against the Empire.
In the canon, although I’m not sure it appears in any of Mart’s stories, is that Doc once worked in an Imperial lab, running experiments on nonhumans. Something — I’m not sure what — opened her eyes to the reality of what she was doing. She fled, leaving everything behind. I think there was a husband, an Imperial officer who didn’t defect when she did. To atone for what she’d done, Doc joined the Rebel Alliance as a battlefield medic.
Mart’s characters met Ariel Shaad in a story we cowrote called “Just Another Day in Paradise.” You can read it on Wattpad.
Doc was older than the other characters, more experienced, more cynical. Despite that, she gathers a new family around her. I’m not sure how she met her taciturn companion Sam, but Kelly Phalfa stowed away on Doc’s med shuttle — named the Plague — after the Imperials attacked the rebel base on Dantooine. Kelly was 13 at the time. Doc never adopts him, but she treats him like a son.
Doc encountered Raena too, during the War. The Plague stopped to scavenge a ship drifting in space and found Raena a prisoner on it. Doc fixes Raena up, then tries to recruit her for the Alliance. But Raena is too broken — and too terrified of Thallian — to take the opportunity.
Mart and I wrote those stories 20 years ago. She published them in her zine Tales of a New Republic, which we sold at the MediaWest convention in Michigan.
I never turned loose of those stories, even as I outgrew Star Wars fanfic. When I was writing The Dangerous Type, I needed to have a black market doctor examine Raena. I asked Mart if I could borrow Doc. She graciously said yes.
Doc always fascinated me because she’s a bad-tempered, hard-drinking woman who is probably the most compassionate person in the series. She cares so much that it hurts her, because she’s learned she can’t save everyone. Death is still going to win in the end and that makes her extremely angry. She drinks as a way to deal with her fury.
The encounter between Raena and Doc is the turning point of The Dangerous Type. Before they talk, Raena is dying. She’s afraid of Thallian hunting her down. She can’t see any reason to survive to face him again. Doc is able to sum up the situation, to spin it enough to give Raena hope. Doc tells Raena that she is the only one who can bring Thallian the justice that the galaxy hasn’t been able to accomplish.
Without Doc’s psychological push and her off-the-grid medical skills, The Dangerous Type would have ended six chapters in.
Mart wrote a really beautiful piece about my borrowing her characters on her blog. In it, she talks about the steampunk novel she’s working on now. Some of her short stories are available online. She has a chapbook of heartbreakers called Dust and Other Stories. She’s a writer you really should explore.
What strong female characters have inspired you?