When I started writing HUNTERS, I knew that ‘The Ballad of the Songbird‘ was going to be a story that embraced an ensemble cast. I wanted to tell a tale that pulled on multiple strands, weaving them slowly into a cohesive storyline.
I knew that Gayle, my main protagonist, was going to be London-based at the start. That this was where she would meet Michael. I knew that her sister, Allyson, would be based in Nexus City in Iceland with her parents. Lyssa Balthazaar would be my woman on the ground in New Victus (formerly the USA), while Damian Dane would represent Pack Nation (formerly Canada.) And then there was Zarra Anderson, who would start off in Cuba before going on a globetrotting adventure (Over the two books so far, she’s been to Cuba, Canada, Rio de Janeiro, Venezuela, the Indian Ocean, and back to the UK.)
At last count, the tale has something like 26 characters with participating roles in the story. Some large, like Gayle, and some small like Daxxem who you’ll meet in the upcoming TOOTH & CLAW.
They aren’t the only characters that feature in the books.
If you watch Star Trek, you’ll know that the USS Enterprise is the other character in the show. In the Dukes of Hazzard it was the General Lee. In the A-Team, it was Mr T’s van. In Battlestar Galactica, it was…well the Battlestar Galactica of course!
And then of course there’s this little beauty…
If you don’t recognise this one, then can we even be friends? *
There’s a long list of ‘hero’ vehicles in film and TV, and Songbird has its own which by this point in my writing I very much consider characters in their own right. The two dropships spring to mind first. Artemis, the dropship of the 137th Hunters, and Diana, Zarra’s personal ship.
The other, and maybe most prominent, is Gayle’s car. Her 2011 Ford Mustang GT500 convertible in snow white. It was the car she painstakingly rebuilt and restored by hand. It’s her first love of American muscle long before she meets Texas-born Michael Reynolds.
It’s also based on a real car. A car I have driven.
But first, let me take you back through the thought process that got me there.
So, I wanted Gayle to have something classic and awesome. It was also going to be something from ‘my era’. Or rather the era where I fell in love with cars. I’m a child of ’71, so the classic cars of the 60s, 70s and 80s are the ones I gravitate toward.
The first car I contemplated was the Jaguar E-Type which is, to my eye, one of the most beautiful cars ever built. Especially the open-topped Roadster version.
I mean, just look at it. *sigh*
The issue here was that it was perhaps just a little bit…Austin Powers. It’s a very quintessentially British car, and all I could think of when I pictured it was the Union Jack emblazoned ‘Shaguar’ of the aforementioned characters movies. It’s also almost…gentile. Classy. Now, while Gayle is British, she’s also a hybrid and she’s definitely not classy.
No, the car didn’t quite match her character.
So, what did I know about Gayle? Well, she’s a bit of a thrill-seeker. A maverick. She’s very headstrong and likes to have things her way. She’s also temperamental and prone to angry outbursts and mood swings.
The latter led me down a path where I considered some of the Italian supercars of the time. Something fiery. The Lamborghinis (Countach and Diablo) of the time were insane. The Countach was especially dear to my heart because I’d fallen in love with that car watching the Cannonball Run movies. But…they never felt right for Gayle either. Plus I knew I wanted a convertible and wasn’t sure I’d ever seen either of those in an open-topped variety.
The next car I considered was a Ferrari Daytona just like the one Sonny Crockett used to drive in the first series of Miami Vice (yes, I know it was a replica! But I didn’t know that then!)
I was very tempted to put Gayle in a car like this. VERY tempted.
But it didn’t seem right. For a start, they’re as rare as rocking horse shit. What would be the chances that Gayle would be able to get hold of one to restore in London, especially in the year 2045?
It wasn’t just that. There were a couple more concerns that came into play when I thought about it more carefully.
Firstly, I was moving mentally in a direction that indicated American muscle. That felt right to me. Gayle really felt like the kind of character who would prefer the rumble of a V8 to the bark of an Italian supercar. So I changed tack a little and started focusing on the muscle cars I loved in my youth. Of course, there was the Dodge Charger (like the aforementioned General Lee) but as far as I know, there isn’t an open-top version of that.
My next thoughts went to this little beauty…
Ah, the old Bandit Express. The gorgeous black 1977 Pontiac Firebird TransAm. This car was definitely getting closer, but it still probably a little flashy for Gayle’s particular tastes. The other issue is, again, availability. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these on English roads in the flesh. I’m sure there are some in the country, but I’ve never seen one.
But this line of thinking led me to the inescapable conclusion that Gayle should really drive the one car that always tops my list.
You see, I’m a Mustang man through and through.
Except for some of the more humdrum models in the 80s and 90s, I’ve loved the Ford Mustang. Indeed the car at the absolute very very top of my ‘dream cars’ list would be a ’67 Mustang like Eleanor in the Nick Cage movie ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’. God, I love that car!
But again, my headspace is bumping into the reality of how difficult it would be to get one of those in London in the year 2045. After all, Eleanor would be almost 90 years old by that point.
I wanted to put her in a car that I had some experience with. Something I’ve driven personally. That meant giving Gayle something a little more contemporary.
I did toy with putting her in the driver’s seat of a 2016 Ford Mustang. After all, I’d driven one of those for over 4000 miles when Wifey and I did Route 66 for our honeymoon.
But no. As much as I enjoyed that car, and she was a trusty steed for almost three weeks as we made our way from Chicago to Los Angeles, there was actually another Mustang that held a more special place in my heart.
Yup, that’s me sitting in the real-life Sally. When you read Songbird and hear about Gayle’s car, this is it. Exactly like this.
The 2016 version of the Mustang looks and feels like it’s been somewhat softened. And its EcoBoost engine didn’t stir the soul at all. A wild horse that’s been tamed to be civil on modern roads.
Sally is based on the 2011 Ford Mustang GT500, and is the car we used when Wifey was working in Canada for a while. This was more like it. A big growly 5.0L engine with brutish looks.
This was Gayle’s car. It’s perfect for her.
It’s not pretty, but it’s pretty in your face.
It’s not flashy, but it grabs your attention.
Of course I needed to make one small tweak. In Songbird, Sally has had a conversion to make it a hybrid. She’s all V8 out on the open road, but due to restrictions in the city of London, she’s also an electric. I liked the idea of this because it also makes her a kind of soulmate to Gayle herself who is also a hybrid. Half human and half Fae. It seemed poetic that Gayle and her car shared this DNA.
So there you have it.
A peek under the hood of my writing process.
Till next time!
Love & Books
* It is of course the ’67 Chevy Impala as driven by the Winchester brothers in the show Supernatural. I love that car!