**Warning: minor spoilers ahead**
Below you will find brief descriptions of the two main characters, Kandi and Juan, with minor spoilers regarding their abilities. If you would like to read Liquid Death without knowing anything about them, skip this post. (It is free to download until midnight PDT.)
Most of the spoilers pertain to events that occur before the book starts.
Coincidentally, I have two memories on Facebook related to this that are two years apart:
Liquid Death began as a story about a girl suffering under brutal experimentation and a boy whose sole purpose was to rescue her. The first draft was titled “Shooting Stars.” I’m not sure why, exactly.
Where did the concept come from? It was inspired by a romance novel that I ended up loathing. The characters in it were annoying, immoral, and pessimistic. Granted, they had endured terrible things, but they never stopped whining about it. I challenged myself to craft characters who have witnessed and endured unimaginable horrors and still remained likable and even relatable. By doing so, I hoped to explore difficult existential questions, such as those pertaining to the afterlife, the nature of good and evil, right and wrong, etc., which naturally come up when you are dealing with tragedy and malevolence. Of course, I couldn’t resist adding a splash of my favorite genres, sci-fi and fantasy, to the plot. Maybe it would take someone more than human to shoulder the burdens of the world…
Her full first name, Kanidie (CAN-ih-dee), spells “kan i die.” Secret’s out, oops. I shortened it to “Kandi” because it sounds sweet and innocent. The nickname was used by her father and half-sister, then by Leyla Hendricks, the Patients of Blue Skys, and the students of Sunny Days. Kandi’s curse is that she can feel the emotional and physical pain of everyone around her. When she touches them (or even makes eye contact with them), she feels everything they have ever felt. Her gift is that she can lift any burden and heal any ailment. She possesses a motherly, saintly instinct to help people, but because of the way her father exploited her gifts as a child, she has been conditioned to hate being around people and fear saving them. This has resulted in more trauma: witnessing the deaths of people she could have saved.
Kandi’s curse is magnified when she is injected with Theratocin, the drug used by Blue Skys doctors to subdue Patients and suppress their powers. When Kandi’s ability to heal is suppressed, she cannot endure the pain of people around her without bleeding from her eyes and vomiting. However, give her enough Theratocin, and she won’t feel anything at all.
I have had debilitating social anxiety since I was about 16 years old (when I started Shooting Stars), so writing a character who hated being near and touched by people was easy and, in a sense, cathartic. Especially because I couldn’t just write her with these problems and leave them as they were. Somehow, she was going to have to overcome them in order to become one of the heroes in the story.
Juan is my romantic, rebellious side. He has dealt with enough unjust authority that he refuses to comply with anyone seeking to gain control over him. Like Kandi, he also has an innate desire to help people, specifically women who seem unable to help themselves due to what he has seen his mother go through.
His rebellious streak began when he was beaten by his father at the age of five. By the age of twelve, he had resolved to perform the ultimate act of rebellion against his father: join his uncle’s rival gang. This led to Juan committing many crimes for which he was never caught: stealing, breaking and entering, and even hurting innocent bystanders to please his uncle, who pushed him harder than any other member in order to prove Juan’s loyalty. These tests culminated when Juan was fourteen (almost fifteen). That night, he realized the terrible errors he made and vowed revenge against his uncle, which he achieved a short time later.
Juan first sees Kandi at Sunny Days High School and immediately pegs her as a helpless, forlorn girl in need of rescuing. Thus begins his next mission: infiltrate Blue Skys and help Kandi escape. Things don’t go according to plan, and Kandi ends up saving him, flipping his world upside down.
I loved writing from Juan’s point of view. He is the more “human” side of the duo. It took me a couple of drafts, but I think I finally nailed his character. He is not someone I planned, but he is somehow very real to me.
(He turned 20 years old on September 12th, and the thought actually makes me sad. You’ll have to read through the second book to find out why, haha.)
Kandi’s father is the main villain in the story. He is a representation of someone who once had hope and lost it – someone who was broken by a tragedy and afterward sought to inflict harm upon others. There is another, twisted side of him, however, that enjoys torturing people, especially pure, innocent Kandi, whom he views as the reason he lost hope to begin with. Jeremy is power-hungry and self-serving, but he also believes he has good intentions, that the suffering he instigates is for the greater good. Who doesn’t want to believe that they are doing things for the right reasons? Who isn’t broken in some form or another and lacks sufficient hope as a result?
She is the secondary villain operating in Jeremy’s shadow. She, too, believes she is doing bad things (experimenting on children) for the right reasons (curing the world’s diseases). She is also in love with Jeremy, and love always complicates things, particularly when it leads to committing adultery. Is it really love, then? That is another question that I wished to answer in this series: what is love, and how does it actually drive a person to act? Can a virtue such as Love compel someone to sin? Or does it merely get conflated with Lust?
Now you have a deeper insight into the thought process that inspired Liquid Death! Congratulations! Subscribe to my weekly newsletter for a chance to receive a free paperback copy, which looks like this (sorry about the low quality photos):
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If you have any questions regarding other points or characters in the story, comment below! If they contain spoilers, use the contact page. 😉
Have a fantastic weekend!