In Challenge Accepted, the main character has a mouth that would make a sailor blanch. It’s one of the most common complaints against the book, but there is a reason. It’s a mask made of words to keep others away.
Riley is nothing but extremes. From her neon colored synthetic dreads to her tattoos and favorite past time, her entire life is meant to prove that she’s not a victim. Part of this includes refusing to let anyone in. Except for her best friend and near-sister, the rest of the world is kept at arm’s length, and her potty mouth is just one tiny part of that persona.
It’s also a method for her to “prove” that she’s as tough as the boys. To Riley, that’s a big deal. She’s been reminded over and over in her life that she’s not good enough, so she counters that by swinging the other direction. She tries to be as bad-ass as they come. She wants to be the rebel, to be seen as anti-social.
I think all of us know someone like Riley Andrews. This isn’t an uncommon type of personality, but it’s rarely lauded as the hero of a story. Granted, it’s becoming a lot more popular in modern novels, but still. I think that if Riley toned down ANYTHING “a bit” she’d lose a lot of her power. Riley is such a striking character because she is so over the top.
My writing partner, Kitty Cox, and I discussed Riley a lot. We wanted to make her weakness – her “fatal flaw” be her own strength. We wanted to write a woman who could get knocked down over and over, and just make bigger plans for her own victory. Each failure was a lesson to her. Each attempt to do better was a success. She’s given up on playing in the rules of society and that has consequences of its own.
We’re very aware that some people will disagree. We know that the Eternal Combat series is not for the faint of heart. We also know that online gaming has become a haven for the socially awkward, the insecure, and the shunned. Online, the rules are different, but those are the things Riley has mastered. She’s learned the game in one small part of her universe, and it alters how she interacts with the real world.
With the prequel to this series coming out, Riley and all of the Eternal Combat women have been on my mind. While these books are technically romance, they teeter on the edge of Dark Romance. The main characters are often broken in some way. Their stories aren’t nice. Then again, who of us can say we’ve had the perfect life? All too often, it’s the hardships we’ve conquered that make us into interesting people.
Hopefully, we’ll soon be announcing a release date for Flawed… and the third Iliri book is getting close to one as well! Going to be a busy year!