In a completely unsurprising turn of events, after reading both Once & Future (a space opera retelling of King Arthur) and The Last Man on the Moon (an astronaut biography about Gene Cernan), all I can think about is space. I want to read it. I want to write it. I can do neither of those things right now, and so instead, I had a brilliant idea last night.
I’m just going to talk about it. I’m going to aim to do these every week (maybe every Wednesday?) because once I got thinking about just chatting about one of my space characters, suddenly I was like WAIT MORE
because that’s who I am as a person go big or go home, and I thought it would be fun to start to introduce some of my characters. I flail about them on the inside a lot, so why not flail about them in public?
Soraya Dalí is one of four main characters in a novel I’m someday going to write that has no title other than space thieves. She comes from a short story that I wrote, Interstellar: Apollo to Atlantis, and that you can buy if you follow that link! (Will I ever stop being over the fact that I’m now a published author? NEVER.)
She is a straight up badass, as well as probably my first female character that I’m truly excited about. I write about a lot of boys. (One more shameless plug: here are all of my current projects if you’re interested!) Most of my main characters are boys, and most of their love interests are boys. Actually? Do I have any straight boys? Um? Anyway. Getting into a girl’s head should be easy, right? I identify as female. I live my life every day as one. So, really, writing women should be easier than writing men, right?
I don’t know what it is, but anytime I think about a novel with a female main character, I just kind of run in the other direction. Sister witches, my three witches accidentally summon a demon and become best friends with him (yes, I will character spotlight them eventually), has two main characters, female and male, but if I really had to pick one, it would be the male. Space thieves, though? That’s all Soraya.
She’s one of those interesting characters, too, where the whole story was built around her. With Saintsverse, my primary project, I woke up one fateful Monday morning with the name Landon Ash in my brain, and I knew that I was going to create something from that name. His character came first, and then the whole story unfolded around him. The same thing happened with Soraya. When I sat down to write my short story for the week (whatever, another plug: Thursday Thousand is on hiatus, but check that link out if you want to see some of my writing), the first sentence came immediately:
In her final hours on the planet, Soraya said her goodbyes.
Ah, okay, I thought. I’m writing about space. Excellent. I’ve wanted to forever. That was familiar territory. But who was Soraya?
(I swear, sometimes names just explode out of me, and I have absolutely no control over them. I really did wake up with the name Landon Ash randomly floating in my head. I really did write Soraya’s name without previous consideration.)
Soraya Dalí is my favorite kind of character. She’s angry, she doesn’t have time for your bullshit, and she’s probably going to steal something along the way.
When Soraya was little, all she wanted was to belong. To something, to someone, she didn’t care. She just wanted to belong. After her mother’s death, her father tried to raise her, but quickly felt like he was failing. With an unsteady job and no way to guarantee a good or safe future for his daughter, he left her at the mercy of the orphanage. At only four, she had only a few memories of her father, but she knew that a hole was living in her heart. She didn’t have a name when she was orphaned, but a matron assigned to her ward quickly took care of that. She told Soraya that she looked exotic with her dark skin and wild hair and big, curious eyes. It would be years before Soraya understood what exotic meant, but by then, she was angry enough to do something about it.
At five, Soraya met little, quiet, cries at everything Ilyas Al-Amin in the middle of the night while he was busy, you guessed it, crying about the thunderstorm overhead. In a fit of rage, Soraya snatched his little hand up, dragged him back to his room, and tried to leave him in his bed, but he clung to her as little, sad boys often do, and with one slow blink of his big, brown eyes, Soraya huffed a frustrated sigh at him and said, “Fine. But just until you fall asleep.” They were friends in no time.
It wasn’t long before two became four. Once they started school together, Veda Joshi, class president (of seven-year-olds, yes), decided that they were her new friends. The following year, Veda dragged Dejan Zorić over to their table, and that was that. Soraya had found where she belonged.
As the four friends progressed through school, Soraya started getting that feeling again. She had people to belong to, but she was still lacking a sense of community. It wasn’t until a school field trip to the Academy, an elite school for those who wished to reach for the stars and beyond, that Soraya finally saw the rest of her life unfold.
Together, Soraya and Ilyas applied for the pilot program as soon as they were old enough. Veda pretended to begrudgingly follow them, but as soon as she saw the science and communications program, she jumped on the bandwagon of trying to convince Dejan to apply, as well. Before long, they were all moving onto the Academy, where they trained for years in the hopes of someday leaving their home planet, Earth, behind and taking part in the interstellar mission to find a new planet.
It was during these years that the four friends started to figure themselves out a little. When Dejan boldly tried to kiss Veda, she hit him in the face and yelled at him about boundaries. When Ilyas boldly tried (and succeeded) to kiss Soraya, she thought that this was what happened. Best friends crushed on each other. She tried to feel something, anything, when Ilyas kissed her, but all she could think about was how early she was going to have to get up in the morning to snipe one of the good jets to fly. Ilyas, it turned out, was panicking about the fact that kissing Soraya was the very last thing he wanted to do, and when he collapsed in a mess of tears, he confessed that he thought he liked boys, and Soraya realized maybe she didn’t have to like anyone.
She never thought that Ilyas’ eventual relationship with their captain, Emil Næss, would cause so much trouble, though.
Soraya had long ago realized that stealing things gave her a thrill, and while none of what she stole would be missed or was all that exciting, she still nicked little things here and there. It wasn’t until she and Ilyas were caught that everything came apart. Ilyas, protected by Emil, was saved. Soraya, labeled as a troublemaker, was expelled from the Academy.
Years later, still furious with the Academy and distanced from Ilyas, but not Veda and Dejan, a mission was announced. Apollo, named for the incredible first steps man took out into their universe, was leaving. It was the interstellar mission Soraya trained so hard for. They were leaving Earth to find a new, habitable planet, and nothing would stop her from finding her way on it.
With her anger and her thievery, Soraya snuck onto the massive ship. Her intention was just to make it to the new planet, whether that was in hiding or in a jail cell after discovery. She didn’t care how she got there, as long as she got there.
What she never expected was to be the one they look to safely land on the new planet. What she never expected was to be a leader. What she never expected was to feel her anger seeping away as she looked up into the dual suns of her new home.
Soraya tipped her head up. The first sun was only just beginning to rise, but Soraya could see its sister lingering at the horizon, slowly following. Three of the four moons had already set, as well, but the fourth lingered stubbornly. Soraya smiled at it. She knew the feeling. She was already late, and though dragging her feet wouldn’t delay the inevitable, it made it easier, taking the time to say goodbye.
And that is our first installment in the Character Spotlight series! What did you think? Would you read a character with Soraya at its helm? I definitely would, but I think I might be a little biased. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!