An Australian author living in Norway

Sabine: Creating a Monster

My current work in progress is one I’ve been struggling with for almost two years. Given that the first two books took a collective thirteen months and the third only two months, this has been a source of constant frustration for me. However, I am nearing the end now, with almost 70,000 words down (and a rough target of 90,000 to finish this draft) I begin to see why it has been so tough.

Belladonna is an origins story, and is the chronological beginning of The Eidolon Cycle. It explores a young woman’s journey from innocence to evil, and how loss of power (and loss in general) can result in a breaking down of the spirit. When Sabine loses everything (and I do mean everything), she refuses to be beaten, but instead chooses a destructive and vengeance-fuelled path. Readers may or may not know from the other books that she cannot and will not be redeemed, but no matter how much they know about her before reading her story, there is a sense from very early on that it can’t end happily.

However, when reading back the previous couple of chapters so I could crack on with the lead-up to the end, I inadvertently made myself cry. I often cry while writing scenes where my protagonist is hurting, but what made me cry this time was her indifference to a terrible situation. Today I knew I had successfully created a monster, and I began to wonder whether I hadn’t gone too far.

Sabine is responsible for some pretty horrific events, not only in this book, but in the series overall, and my aim with her story was to show readers how someone could change from a girl as innocent as those in the other books to a remorseless murderer. I believe I am succeeding in that, but at what price? It’s unpleasant, at best, to set about creating an evil person, especially since in this case it took a lot of evil inflicted upon her to get her to snap – and she has fought me all the way. At times I’ve felt terrible for what I have to do to her, especially when I like her for all her haughtiness. She’s stronger than I could ever be, and I admire how fiercely she stood up to everything I threw at her. (Aside to the non-writers: this sounds a little like multiple personality disorder, but I assure you it’s entirely normal for writers.)

So, suddenly I had my answer: this book has taken four times as long as any of the others because torturing a young woman into insanity is not something done with ease. And I have not relished the task I have set myself; I have been with her all the way – right up until the point where she stopped caring. Now there is a chasm between us; she has become the torturer, and all my other characters are at her mercy. Now I understand Doctor Frankenstein’s lament: I’ve created a monster!

Note: the image above is of the beautiful Julie Newmar, and this picture of her looks just how I have always imagined Sabine.


  1. Susan Crispell

    I love this, Zoe. Especially after talking about her on our hike in February. Just listening to you talk about her makes me want to read this book (and the other 3!) so badly. I think it’s amazing that you can take someone who is evil and make her so very human. Good luck finishing the story!

    • Zoë

      You have no idea how much that little talk helped me, Susan. What we discussed has become integral to her story now, and it wouldn’t be the same without it. I may yet tap you on the shoulder for a beta read. 🙂

  2. Y.D.

    Itching to discuss with you from a psychologist’s perspective.

    • Zoë

      Always of interest to me. Though what the entire series might say about the workings of my brain is maybe something better left alone. 😀

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