With my first novel coming out I wanted to talk about the heroine, Helena Woolf .
Helena Woolf is an Oligarch, a member of a ruling class of genetically-engineered super humans who live for centuries and have access to limitless wealth and technology. Supported by Artificial Intelligences (AIs) embedded in their own minds, which are constrained from attaining sentience – truly sentient AIs being forbidden – the Oligarchs are the unchallenged masters of the human race.
At the very start of the book we meet Helena, who is the public face for her company as they negotiate over the future of the great mass of unenhanced, ordinary folk, Normals who no longer have any productive labour they can offer in return for wages. The corporations demand efficiency; and many feel that those who don’t add value must be dealt with, permanently. Although Helena’s firm is against the genocide proposed by their competitors; war, it seems, is inevitable. Euros asks Helena to retrieve vital technology that can stop a hostile takeover by rival firm Indexiv and prevent the murder of the human race before it’s begun. Helena races half way across the world, war facing her at every turn only to discover that her own company might not be so committed to opposing genocide as she hoped. Faced with having to act alone, unsure she can trust her own people, Helena makes the choice to fight a new holocaust in whatever way she can.
It was important to me that her journey from privileged elite to something more was plausible. She goes through a torrid time arriving at that place where she cares for people other than herself but like anyone who’s been surrounded by wealth all their lives she needed a real jolt to get her to see the world from the point of view of those who aren’t like her. The balance though is how to keep her from becoming completely unlikeable.
The other key concern for me was how to portray someone who is physically perfect without that becoming a sexualised description. I wanted a protagonist who was competent, confident and proactive. I didn’t want a character whose main defining feature was of someone in distress who needed rescuing. Doubly so because she’s a woman.
So Helena was born – a woman who is human, sharing our confusions and fragility, the possibility of being unlikeable because she doesn’t see things our way. She’s strong, smart, independent. Everything I hope my daughter grows up to be.
In the end she’s faced with a choice to act – to do something decisive. For me it didn’t matter how amazing she was, she’s no saint and that choice is one she struggles with. Does she make the right decision? Well, you’ll have to read it and see for yourself.