I had the beginning of The Marked inside my head for a long time. One of the things keeping me from writing it was Preston Marlock; he is a cagey character, slippery and desperate.
I don’t deny I was often frustrated with him. I had Jude, I knew what made her and Aggie tick, and to a lesser degree the Skinner. But Preston? Oh, he didn’t like being pinned down. He didn’t like speaking at all.
So instead of talking, I began to play him music. He would come creeping out during the damndest songs, but it took a while to get the one that would reliably draw him from hiding.
What’s it like, I wondered, going through an unnaturally long, unnaturally violent life and never being able to touch another human being without killing them? Once I put the question that way, I realized the problem wasn’t that Press didn’t want things. He just buried the wanting, because he thought it wouldn’t do any good.
If there’s ever a character who exhibits the kind of despair the nuns of my youth called a sin, it’s Press. After a while, I’d hear the first bars of Sinister Kid and think about him, and he’d start talking.
I just had to slow down enough to listen.