Aw, thank you! I always like to corrupt the youths with my wild ideas and I am certain your speech was excellent. ;)
At first my answer to the question was going to be a startled ‘no what? Totally not, I never thought of such a thing.’ Which meant I was like: I must not answer this! I have done it a few times in person and I always feel super bad about it.
READER: So you were doing this cool thing?
SARAH: Whaaa…? Cool… thing? Doesn’t seem like me…
READER: I imagined her differently. Less vacant staring into space.
(THANK YOU CLEVER READERS FOR YOUR EXCELLENT THEORIES! I always enjoy hearing them and am working on my poker face and ability to slyly and knowingly murmur ‘You noticed that, did you?’)
But THEN, I thought, well, this is a nice question to get just after the Seb/Jamie fanmix. Plus, I do believe that characters are made up from a million different things layered on top of each other, and some of those things are unconscious.
I like Wuthering Heights. I like Hareton Earnshaw: I always liked how he was the only person who loved Heathcliff in the end, even though he’d been wronged by him, and I liked that he was furious at the world, uneducated and terribly aware of it, and that he has a big crush on a cute blonde. I didn’t consciously base Seb on him, but I can see points of similarity between him and Seb even though there are also many differences—his dynamic with his love interest being one.
I *have* written a character consciously inspired by an Emily Bronte character, but it wasn’t Seb. Nor was it Nick—but Nick was inspired by a tradition of romantic heroes, including Heathcliff, who present as tall, dark, handsome and lacking in certain emotions (though always capable of a double-scoop of fury with rage sprinkles). Said heroes are usually seen from the outside, and I thought it would be interesting to write from the inside of one of those heroes, and show that he really didn’t work the same way as other people—to get inside the head of one of the ‘demon lovers’ (from ‘like a woman wailing for her demon lover,’ Kubla Khan) and go: yep, demon.
In some ways, Seb was spun off from Nick. I always think it is super interesting to investigate how similar affect and behaviour can come from really different places in different people. I didn’t want to say: if you act this way, it’s because you’re like this. There are a ton of different reasons for why people act the way they do: Nick did because he didn’t feel fear, and Seb because fear was what ruled him and he dared not show it. I wanted to think a little bit about the reasons why humans pretend to be inhuman.
One thing that Nick could not feel, especially not at the stage of emotional development he was during the series, was romantic love. (Urgent memo to all Nick shippers: do not despair, that doesn’t mean he won’t get there.) Even if Nick were to feel such a thing, it probably wouldn’t be in a human way.
But said heroes in said romantic tradition often did have romantic obsessions, often with people they did not treat well because of said burning passion: And since there are always about a million straight versions of any story and an exteme lack of versions with LGBTQ themes, I thought it would be interesting to write about such a passion focused on someone of the same sex, and what that would look like: I figured probably initially super crappy for the object of those affections. (Sorry Jamie. Sorry about your life and all the Byronic figures in it.)
It’s very tricky to talk about characters being based off other characters, for many reasons: in my experience, a character is never directly based off one other character. The inspiration for a character can come from another character, and as I’ve said that was the case with me once—but if that had been all there was to the character, I’d never have been interested enough to write about them.
Writers tend to like their own characters better than anyone else’s. (With some exceptions. See also: Elizabeth Bennet, major league literary babe.) And yet readers like to map characters onto other characters—which is a totally normal thing to do and something I have seen many times. So with good intentions on all sides, a reader might say ‘that character is like that other character!’ and the writer might go: ‘That neighbour’s child is gross compared to my baby!’ and the poor reader’s like ‘whoa, both kids seem fine…’
Alternatively, readers may write something like ‘Sarah Rees Brennan is a gross hack because her character Lettice Jenkins is a total ripoff of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’ and the writer is left going ‘But I… but wha…?’
I wish to stress that I like Bronte and so this was a totally fine question to ask and an interesting thing to think about, but I admit I had moments going ‘dslfdsofgfhkl! murder!’ when people compared my Ryves brothers to the Supernatural characters and I had a couple of such moments with Lynburn Legacy characters too. So I always do raise an eyebrow when I hear someone saying ‘such-and-such a character is totally so-and-so’ because I know that it’s probably not the case.
But at the same time asking a writer because one is curious and cares about the writer’s characters is a huge compliment. All writers want readers to care about their characters. And if you ask a writer, it’s flattering because it means you wish for their opinion. ;)
So the answer, as usual with me, is: it’s complicated! And I can go on about it at length. ;) Readers generally cannot know for sure what is going on in a writer’s mind. But a writer doesn’t always know for sure what’s going on in their own mind, either.