Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Straight Chatting from the Library: The Hierophant's Daughter by M.F. Sullivan

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


Character creation

Character creation is always my favorite part of the writing process. Discovering the plot with and through that character is a blast, of course, but meeting a new main character feels, when you’re doing it right, like making a new best friend. This is something that lots of starting writers struggle with. I remember checking a book about writing out of my high school library, and it included one of those enormous inventories where you fill out a character’s eye color, hair color, nose shape, childhood memories, favorite pets, favorite this and that—ugh! Even then, I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really going to help me write this story?”

There is so much more to a character than that. In real life, we bond with people not because of their aquiline nose and piercing aqua eyes, but because we can relate to them on an emotional or psychic level. Maybe we share a similar background, or we have a similar burden or dilemma with which we can assist one another. There’s always something deeper there, beyond the superficial qualities—even superficial or negative relationships are driven by a complex array of emotional scarring. Therefore, to create your character, you have to get to know them as a person.

When I first started writing The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy, it was in the early evening, after I was finished with my work for the day. I had been sort of kicking around the plan to start work on my next project soon—and I knew the main character’s name, her wife’s name, the villain and the rest of the Holy Family, but I knew really very little about them or their world. Yet, that evening, I felt urgently called to sit down at my keyboard, and though I only expected to produce maybe an opening paragraph at most, I suddenly found myself with half a chapter—the next day, I finished that chapter, and kept plunging through, not knowing what would happen or who half these people were. Words and names and things I didn’t recognize or didn’t plan came bubbling out of my keyboard, but by far, the most amazing discovery and the most amazing character was General Dominia di Mephitoli, the trilogy’s heroine.

I didn’t even know she was a General when I first started! I didn’t even know her wife was dead. I just knew she was running—running from what? Dogs. Okay, dogs—and? Through trees. To? A farmhouse. Why? Because her wife was dead, and she needed to flee the country to try to bring her back.

And so the next eighteen months of my life vanished in a clatter of keys, and with each chapter I learned something new about this woman who, once the Governess of the United Front, is demoted to General within our first few minutes of knowing her. This is important—I can’t emphasize enough to the young writer how much I did not know about Dominia or her world.

Because, ultimately, the way you develop a character is by writing about them. True character development in the most literal sense of the term is what happens to a character over the course of the story. You don’t need to develop a character before you write, because if you do that you don’t need to write. If you want to flesh out traits you learn about them later, you can do that in editing. But for a first draft, you have to be an observant student of the character’s mind and actions. What are their hearts telling you? What are their motivations, why are their motivations—and how can you relate to those motivations? As soon as you can grasp those questions, you’ll be off and running.


By 4042 CE, the Hierophant and his Church have risen to political dominance with his cannibalistic army of genetically modified humans: martyrs. In an era when mankind's intergenerational cold wars against their long-lived predators seem close to running hot, the Holy Family is poised on the verge of complete planetary control. It will take a miracle to save humanity from extinction.

It will also take a miracle to resurrect the wife of 331-year-old General Dominia di Mephitoli, who defects during martyr year 1997 AL in search of Lazarus, the one man rumored to bring life to the dead. With the Hierophant's Project Black Sun looming over her head, she has little choice but to believe this Lazarus is really all her new friends say he is--assuming he exists at all--and that these companions of hers are really able to help her. From the foulmouthed Japanese prostitute with a few secrets of her own to the outright sapient dog who seems to judge every move, they don't inspire a lot of confidence, but the General has to take the help she can get.

After all, Dominia is no ordinary martyr. She is THE HIEROPHANT'S DAUGHTER, and her Father won't let her switch sides without a fight. Not when she still has so much to learn.

The dystopic first entry of an epic cyberpunk trilogy, THE HIEROPHANT’S DAUGHTER is a horror/sci-fi adventure sure to delight and inspire adult readers of all stripes.


Cassandra’s absence was not her first discovery. That was her (officially) broken watch, whose blank face reflected her own bleary one. Then came the porter’s uniform, folded beside her unconscious body with such tight creases it looked as if it had been ironed: it smelled like the lavender of the woman who had pinned her against the cool metal of the train car to multiply the current’s kick. That, plus the ache in her stiff muscles, meant the woman was no hallucination. Dominia had escaped Japan, and now had a whole new level of problems. Who was she? Miki Soto. A card sat atop the uniform, its front embossed with a black-petaled, red-outlined lotus. Familiar symbol, but one she couldn’t place in her post-electric haze. She sat up to rub her head and neck with a pained sigh that turned into suffocation as her hand found the necklace gone from her throat.

Her palms were wet with sweat beneath her gloves. She stripped them off to feel around on her chest, then cried out to confirm Cassandra gone. Up the General sprang, then back down on hands and knees in search of her beloved’s remains. No trace.

Dominia knew where she was: with that same woman who had left the uniform. A disguise for the train, in exchange for her wife’s body. Cassandra! Oh, poor Cassandra, forever dying in Dominia’s mind, much as she forever stood in her flowing black dress, whose lace she smoothed while they waited outside the throne room of the Hierophant. Telling her, “You look beautiful, don’t worry; you’re so smart and funny, everyone will love you.”


M.F. Sullivan is the author of Delilah, My Woman, The Lightning Stenography Device, and a slew of plays in addition to the Trilogy. She lives in Ashland, Oregon with her boyfriend and her cat, where she attends the local Shakespeare Festival and experiments with the occult. Find more information about her work (and plenty of free essays) at https://www.paintedblindpublishing.com! Author Links:

Blog: https://www.paintedblindpublishing.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TheRealMFS
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/M.-F.-Sullivan/e/B013DDEQVE
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14199461.M_F_Sullivan

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hierophants-Daughter-M-F-Sullivan/dp/0996539565
NetGalley: http://netgal.ly/AYYlKV
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42921564-the-hierophant-s-daughter
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hierophants-daughter-m-f-sullivan/1129918390
Hardback: 978-0-9965395-6-2
Paperback: 978-0-9965395-7-9
eBook: 978-0-9965395-8-6


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  1. I can't wait to read this!! Sounds super good!!

  2. Good morning! Thanks so much for hosting on this tour!

  3. I appreciate you taking the time to give us a great book description and giveaway as well. Thank you so much!

  4. How many drafts did the story go through before it was published?

  5. Sounds very interesting! Thanks for sharing :)