Forging the Phoenix
The Creation of Sephy Sinclair
Few of my female heroines have received such enthusiastic reception as one Miss Sephy Sinclair, and the way she occurred to me wasn’t entirely usual for me process wise at all. So, I thought today we’d take a look at how exactly she came about and what makes Sephy the character readers of the Ashen Touch Trilogy know and love.
Disclaimer- This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through one of these links, I will, at no extra cost to you, receive a percentage as a commission.
Warning- This Article Contains Ashen Touch Trilogy Spoilers! Read on at your peril!
With my other main characters, Callie Pierce and Valentine Moreland, the first thing I knew of them was their faces. Blonde frizzy hair, big brown eyes, the shape of the face, height… personal style. However, this wasn’t the way in which Sephy Sinclair came to me at all. I’m lying in bed shortly after my diagnosis with Fibromyalgia, before I had any medication at all and everything was still up in the air. I was in pain, and often that’s when my ideas come to me when I’m trying to think about anything else other than my own discomfort. So what was the first thing I knew of Sephy Sinclair?
Funnily enough, not the red hair, nor the cognac eyes. I heard her voice inside my head, and it made me sit bolt upright, before crawling over a sleeping Mark and heading exactly three feet over to my kitchen. Back then I lived in a shoebox apartment, a studio of 20sq/ft, so I didn’t have to go far to find a paper and pen. I remember knowing her voice, her tone and personality faster than any other character I’d created before, and this excited me immensely. People always ask me if I relate to my characters, and if so, which ones I relate to most. While I think all of my characters have a little bit of me, Callie the independent young woman who didn’t fit in with her peers, Orion the hopeless romantic etc, none of my characters to date have come as close as Sephy Sinclair to capturing what I believe is the essence of me. Her sarcasm, her sass, her 'give no shits' attitude, comes directly from my personality, making her easier to write. My dark sense of humour, my constant banter with Mark which is so resonant of that between her and Xion, is also part of what makes me British, hence the decision to school her in England. When I think back, I can picture Azure being a kind of evolutionary stage for this kind of character, because though she is sassy and stubborn, she is also melancholic in a way which Sephy isn’t. So anyway, let's take a look at the four main features of this sparky redhead which I painstakingly poured over when I was creating the character you all know and love.
Sephy is a very physical person, she cares how she looks and sees her make-up and her clothes as a form of defence. You can see in the books that she hates wearing dresses, and wants to be seen not as a damsel, but as a warrior. She chooses tough fabrics, leather being one of her favourites, and also enjoys high heels because despite already being tall she loves being on eye level with men or opponents who she loves to taunt and tease.
Sephy has fiery red hair, her main distinguishing feature throughout the books. I used her hair in the creation of the Book Covers to make a statement about the tone of each story, so the cover for The Opal Blade shows her as seemingly demure, shy as she looks down, which is a stark contrast to the blazing red tendrils of hair which fall in a waterfall from her scalp and down over one shoulder. I wanted this to demonstrate the oxymoronic state of her as both predator and prey. The Onyx Hourglass cover has an entirely different feel, her hair becoming flat and lifeless, seemingly extinguished from before, representing her spirit and resurrection in this novel and how she feels utterly detached from the person she was. The Obsidian Shard cover is by far my favourite of the three and is being revealed on the 21st of July 2018- so keep your eyes peeled as my lips are sealed on this one and see what you think.
Sephy has cognac eyes, I chose this colour because it not only represents the colour of earth, matching her mother’s and symbolizing the grounding her mortal half provides her but also because it’s the same colour as whiskey, her favourite drink.
Sephy’s colour choices throughout the novel also give her away, with us seeing a move from blacks and greys in The Opal Blade to white at the end, this being carried through in to book two in the dress she’s buried in. It’s also key to note how she often steals Xion’s clothing, representing her unknowing acceptance of his affection and influence over her throughout the series. I gave her the body of a warrior, tall, muscular and agile, with the curves which also make her attractive to the opposite sex.
One of the things I love most about Sephy is her loose and highly sexualized behavior, which for me demonstrate to the reader that a woman has just as much a right to casual sex as any men and that this shouldn’t be stigmatized the way it is. For Sephy, it isn’t considered bad, it’s simply a part of who she is and how she likes to live her life.
Stubborn, sassy, loyal, sparky, feisty, short tempered, reckless… all words we could use to describe Sephy. I wanted her personality to mimic fire in the way it can both blaze and kindle warmth. Her temper, her sass, and recklessness are a part of this blaze, whereas her loyalty and silent resolve, her determination constitute what I would consider being a slow-burning and reliable fire you can warm yourself by at the end of the day.
Sephy isn’t just this way by accident though, her personality traits stem from how she has been raised, and what has happened to her. Her stubbornness comes from a certain amount of self-reliance which she has learned from being orphaned as a child. Her sass comes from her fear of not wanting to let others in, so she deflects with sarcasm, with humor, to prevent others from analyzing her too closely. Her short temper was something I added as a trait which runs close between her and Haedes, but also represents how unpredictable and volatile flames can be, and how dangerous. Whenever these things happen, these blazes in personality, there is usually a fuel included. Whiskey is one, and deep breathing from fight or flight is another. Much like flames, both alcohol and a heady, fast supply of oxygen cause this young woman to rage and burn, becoming destructive to her surroundings.
Once Sephy trusts you, something which is not easy to achieve, she will remain absolutely loyal until that trust is broken. Her perception about people’s motives tend to be correct, which is why her murderer at the end of book one had to be someone she barely knew, someone she wasn’t able to read as a threat. Sephy is hard to surprise, I mean, she doesn’t even trust her own uncle, and is smart and fast on her feet, so killing her off was a challenge to be sure. Jules is the number one example of this, and his and Sephy’s relationship is one of my favourites. This protagonist can also be considered as enjoying a challenge, so much so that she might go to the point of self-destruction to prevent herself getting bored.
She is also known for acting rashly despite her high level of intelligence, which often gets her into more trouble than she anticipates and consequences is a prevalent and running theme throughout the story for not only her but all characters. However, having said this, as we progress through the trilogy we begin to see that Sephy develops an enormous amount of guilt, knowing that the responsibility which is falling on her shoulders is more than simply the family business. We watch her grapple with her longing for freedom and the inner nagging of her moral compass, which grows over the three novels, leading her to make choices that surprise even her for even more surprising and extremely emotional reasons.
Sephy’s speech is probably closest to my own. She uses lots of expressive language, such as cuss words and amusing colloquialisms which attract Xion in the very beginning. As the novels progress, we see a melding of her vocabulary with his as he starts to pick up some of her signature phrases and words, ‘fuck’, being one of the most common. Sephy also has a British accent with a tinge of American from her schooling, and often interrupts people mid-sentence as she believes what she has to say is more important or negates their point entirely. Her sarcasm and wit make her likeable for the reader, with some of my favourite exchanges happening between her and Haedes, whose language also de-formalises throughout the process of them getting to know one another, and Xion who manages to break through her sarcasm and sass and get to the heart of the matter, catching her off guard entirely. When emotionally challenged, Sephy clams up, not knowing what to say, or saying very little, in stark contrast to her usual chatterbox self. She also becomes very self-conscious about her speech, choosing words, phrases, and tone more carefully than she usually would.
As I discuss in my previous article about Plot Construction which you can read HERE, the backstory of a character is truly what determines how they act. Sephy’s backstory is littered with tragedy, from the accidental death of her parents, to never knowing her true father, and being shipped off to boarding school away from everything she had ever known at only six years of age. With such a strong character, trials and tribulations for me were a must for her past. Compared to many of the other characters she may seem to have bad luck, but it’s also fortunate as these tragedies prepare her for what is coming. Her past, including physical skills learned and education really craft her into the perfect person to take on the monstrous amount of challenges put in front of her.
Interestingly, we can see her cling to childish things in the first novel, with these memories of her parents becoming removed as the Sinclair Estate is remodelled shortly before her re-birth, the past seemingly wiped clean everywhere but Sephy’s traumatised psyche. In the second book of The Ashen Touch Trilogy, Sephy finds her past almost re-written as she discovers more detail about her mother and Haedes’ relationship, and also begins to finally move on from the fire which she caused all those years ago. Sephy really starts to redefine what family means to her in this trilogy, starting with Haedes, moving through to her relationship with Jules, then Luce, and finally Xion.
Though it’s been challenging to portray such a complex character, I have to say that writing Sephy Sinclair has been my favourite ARC evolution for a character so far, and I look forward to concluding her story for you all in The Obsidian Shard, which will be releasing in December at the end of this year.