Sunday, June 23, 2013

One of Those 'Friends Without Benefits' Situations

A kindly reader asks:

"I was a little questioning about the interactions between Annique and Adrian. Some other reader's reviews suggested that he was a little bit in love with Annique, now obviously this was after he had met Justine so I was wondering if  you could elaborate  on this ..."

You roll your characters up in the same blanket in a ruined monastery and folks wonder if they're maybe a little bit more than 'good friends'.
But, really, I was just trying for friendship between those two, which is probably naïveté on my part.  Maybe there is a certain unlikeliness that one would cuddle up next to Hawker and feel only an innocent appreciation of the warmth.

Would they just be good friends, those two?

Well ... why friends at all?

Once Adrian and Annique meet, a sense of camaraderie between these two is almost inevitable.
They're experts in the same profession; they speak the same 'language' as it were; they depend on one another; they're running from the same enemy. 
And Adrian has always had an admirable gift of true friendship with women.

At the beginning of Spymaster's Lady, Annique feels protective toward Adrian and amused by him.  She likes him.  She respects him for the spy he is and the greater spy he will become.  But it's not romantic love.  (I maintain.)  Annique is sexually attracted to the older, harder, more powerful Grey instead of the wild, brave, brilliant boy her own age.      

But why not both?  Why not les sexy overtones between Adrian and Annique?
What are they, deficient in vitamins?

Well ... there's this.  Adrian quite deliberately marks out a platonic relationship between himself and Annique.  He teases, but makes no real sexual overtures.  Once it's clear Grey is attracted to her, Adrian doesn't let himself even think of her in a sexual way.  That's one of the virtues he brings from that criminal gang background of his youth.  A friend's woman is utterly taboo. 

And then, there's Justine. 
The influence of Justine defines the Adrian-Annique friendship.  She's only glancingly mentioned in Spymaster's Lady, and not by name, but she's at the forefront of Adrian's mind throughout the book.  We don't see this because we don't go into his thoughts, the book not being about Adrian, after all.  (We go into his POV once.  I think it's once.) 

The action of Spymaster's Lady takes up a few days after Justine shot Adrian.  (We see it happen in Black Hawk.)  When, in TSL, our feverish Hawker jokes about the wound, he's remembering that Justine led a pack of soldiers after him.  That she tried to kill him.  That's what he's not saying to Grey and Doyle when he's being lightheartedly heroic.
Justine's betrayal is the subtext of Adrian's behavior through much of Spymaster's Lady.

(I love to use the word 'subtext' and don't really care if I'm using it right.  Life improves tremendously when we learn not to care about using the word 'subtext' incorrectly.)

Anyhow, TSL opens with Adrian's betrayal and loss. That bullet hole defines Adrian's reaction to Annique.  He's been so battered by the end of his passionate, deadly, complex relationship with Justine that a new sexual attraction would only be painful.  The protective friendship with Annique is exactly the healing he needs.  Maybe the emotional tie with Annique is stronger because he thinks he's lost Justine forever. 

So anyhow -- responding to that question --  that is how I see the relationship between these two.  But every book is a partnership between the author and the reader.  If readers see the Adrian/Annique relationship differently and the books don't directly contradict . . .
Go for it.
Take the story where you want it to go.
Or, anyhow, go for it till I write something elsewise.


  1. Christine3:39 PM

    I never got a romantic vibe from Annique and Adrian. Maybe it's because she is somewhat of a serious almost earnest character and he is such a wry joker, maybe I sense from your writing he is amused by the situation but not personally interested. More than that, it's not only clear that she is taken in her own way with Grey from the beginning, but that he is clearly her competition/nemesis. Doyle is the avuncular figure, Adrian her brotherly "friend" and the one who is so much like her, but Grey brings the tension and the sizzle. And without the angst and tension how boring books would be.
    Also- the pictures you post are so adorable they are distracting. I am reading along your very informative posts, then my eye catches one and my brain is all "KITTEN! ADORABLE!" and I have to go back and find my place again.

  2. Anonymous11:02 PM

    I wouldn't say I considered Annique and Adrian's impulses as quasi- romantic (or parallel universe romantic), though I certainly appreciate that you gave the readers the liberty to interpret it as they wished. ;-)

    I read it as Adrian by nature being a flirt. He has a gift for women--he genuinely likes them, whereas I interpreted Justine as stoically cautious around most men (which made for an interesting combination!). I loved the remark you made that Adrian in ASL has a physical and metaphoric reminder of his love for another woman in the gunshot, and I loved reading even the slightest reference in that novel to his feelings for the shooter. I instantly wanted to read more (lucky for me I was late coming to the entire series, and didn't have to wait to read Adrian's tale!).

    I thought Adrian appreciated Annique's beauty, the way he would appreciate a fine wine, and Annique appreciated his resilience and the aspects of his character that mirrored her own. I suppose I also thought his protective instincts towards Annique were quite brotherly at heart. I supposed that he'd seen elements of innocence in her that had been stripped from Justine, and understood the importance of trying to protect that.

    Sidebar: I still can't believe we live in a world where we get to interact directly with authors we admire--Joanna Bourne, you are amaaazingly talented.I love the way you write, the way you delve into the cadence of a character's speech patterns, the rhythm and flow of the language, the word choices. I love reading over a passage and thinking: 'oh, great line/word/phrase'. So thank you very much for sharing your gifts, thoughts, writing process. I can't WAIT to read Pax's story! (selfishly, I can't help but hope you have loads more potential romance-spy novels percolating after that one as well, but will be happy reading whatever you write!)

  3. (I love to use the word 'subtext' and don't really care if I'm using it right. Life improves tremendously when we learn not to care about using the word 'subtext' incorrectly.)

    That made me laugh! And I really enjoy the intricately woven tapestry of relationships in your novels. So much more than male = H, female = h, therefore male (H) + female (f) = HEA.

    And is that a cat-cracked piece of pottery in that picture? That's what most of my pottery, china, lamps, etc. end up looking like!

  4. Anonymous10:27 PM

    Never thought there was any romantic subtext to Annique and Adrian. Love your books, wish you could write faster.

  5. Hi Christine --

    I didn't intend for there to be a Romantic vibe between the two. I tried hard to make it not happen, in fact, because Annique needs a straightforward friend in that story and I like Hawker playing a friend.

    We don't have enough non-sexy relationships between male and female in Romance, I've always thought.

    And, when I was writing TSL, I knew about Justine, though she was still called Marianne in my mind at that point. It didn't seem right to have Adrian anything but platonic when his head was full of Justine.

  6. Hi Anon One --

    The book is only the written-down part of the story. I imagine lots more going on that's not in any book and I don't see why a reader shouldn't imagine for themselves as well.

    I know I take other writer's works and go live inside them for a while. And since I'm there, I like to rearrange the furniture a bit ...
    No harm; no foul.

    I see Adrian talking about sex to Annique as a magician showing how he does a card trick. "See -- this is where I keep the card. Now watch." I see it as Adrian deliberately defusing what could otherwise be a too-intimate situation.
    Annique crawls under the covers with him and he jokes about "Since you're not going to make love with me," and there's no sexual tension. it's all diffused.

    Or something like that.

    When I was writing Annique, I was making her the other side of the coin with Justine.
    They were both child spies, about the same age. Both raised by Lucille. One relatively protected, innocent, a child of the light, one who had not killed. The other abandoned and debauched, a child with little light inside her, a willing killer.

    And they knew each other, of course, as they were growing up. They were more than a little jealous. When Annique makes the remark about the doppleganger, she's thinking of Justine.

    Adrian, in TSL, come fresh from one side of the coin to the other and neither Annique nor Adrian realize this.

    And thank you so much for the kind words.

    I do enjoy writing this blog. I don't think it wins me any new readers, I just like maundering on in public. I talk to the dog and cat but they are not carnivores of conversation.

  7. Hi Rappleyeah --

    I bought two pieces of pottery -- two cups -- on Etsy.

    Buying pottery is always a risk because you don't enjoy pottery only with your eyes. You enjoy it with your hands. But these two had such a wonderful red to them that I took the chance.

    And they were lovely.

    One arrived broken and I sat there on the floor -- having for some reason opened this package when I was sitting on the floor -- and thought all kinds of deep philosophical thoughts about broken pottery and one surviving and one not and the futility of all human desire. As one does.

    And since the light was good I went and took a bunch of pictures and put them up on my Flickr account where they are creative commons / attrrib only. That saved part of the soul of that cup.

    Then I went and used it in the bottom of some flower pots where you put a piece of broken pottery over the hole in the bottom so it doesn't get blocked up. That saved the rest. Now the broken cup has tomato roots and dahlia roots around it.

    Hmmm ... rather long answer, wasn't it?

    1. That was a great answer. No such thing as too long an answer or too long of a book for me. And I love it that you saved the soul of the broken cup, gave it new life. Since I look at most everything in life philosophically, I too would have sat on the floor thinking about the meaning of the broken cup. Cups, urns, chalices have traditionally been symbols of the feminine, so I'd imagine a broken one as symbolizing the wounded feminine, looking at it in a universal and then a personal way.

    2. Indeed. And the broken cup is an ancient symbol for loss of virginity

      (Though, of course, breaking a cup underfoot in the Jewish wedding ceremony commemorates the destruction of the Temple of Solomon rather than anything as crass as the wedding night.

      I'm reminded of -- Not a cup here, but eggs --

    3. You bring up virginity, or the loss thereof... Virginity is a very interesting word as it stems from the Latin vir (man), which is also at the root of virago, denoting a woman of manly strength and courage. A virgin was originally thought to be a woman who was the equal of a man, a man-woman rather than a chaste maiden. That concept is later European.

      Sorry, I digress from the relationship between Annique and Adrian.

      Thank you for the painting link.

    4. Interesting.

      Sometimes I wish I had the time to learn some Latin. It would help in understanding English, I should think.

  8. Hi Anon Two --

    I wish I wrote faster too, (says jo, distancing herself from the problem, as if she were writing passive voice or putting it into another character's POV.)

    It's all just a lack of focus and discipline.

    If there were something like coffee that worked better than coffee, much more creative work would be done in this world.
    At least by me.

    Super coffee, that's what we need.

  9. That's lovely Jo, thank you for detailing all that subtext for us [s]
    I like thinking about these sorts of things on rereads!

    1. ... and it's useful to set this stuff in our mind for the WIP. We want to think about how everyone is feeling as they go through the story. Gives us all those internals.

      Or else it just paralyses us and we don't get any writing done at all.

  10. This completely makes sense to me. I just finished re-reading TSL again, and then the rest of the series because I love this world and the characters. I'm SO looking forward to more, whenever that will be :)

  11. Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed the books.

    I'm working hard on the next one but it is agonizingly slow.