Sorry this is so late. I was wiped out last night (went to bed at 9pm, crazy early for me) and my internet was down today until around dinner time. Here are answers to Emily's questions. I'm going to save Joshua's and DL's questions for the next couple Mondays.
Emily asked: What's the weirdest food you've ever eaten?
Hmm, this is hard. Possibly starfruit and kumquats. Starfruit for the taste and kumquats just because they're like itty bitty oranges that you eat whole. I've had quite a bit of international foods, but I'm not sure I'd classify any of them as weird. Though I'm sure some people might think of tadig that way. It's rice that's been deliberately cooked into a crunchy crust.
If I could be any of my characters, which one would I be?
Another toughie. I love many of them. But possibly I'd go with Captain Daira or Jana. They're from the same story and balance each other's weaknesses.
--Captain Daira is tough and disciplined with a mind for strategic planning. She's loyal to her country and fights for justice and honor, even when others think she has none. Right now she's trying to maintain her ideals but she's no longer quite the noble leader she'd hoped to be. She's fixated on proving herself innocent of the false charges which has made her a little bitter and tarnished her ideals. Managing an assorted lot of men doesn't help her focus when some of them are actual criminals.
--Jana is a kind-hearted artisan who gets brought into Daira's camp after her father is hung as a traitor and has to learn all sorts of things about the wider world she'd never dealt with before. She'd been sheltered, but she will be learning how to be a leader even though she won't be the same sort as Daira. Instead she has a willingness to listen, generosity, and encouragement to draw people to her. Jana never sees herself as a leader, but Daira and her men come to recognize those quieter leadership traits.
This whole leadership difference is a major theme. Daira's the obvious sort of societal leader. She commands a group of people with her dominant and confident personality, and they do what she tells them. (Mostly) But then there's a more subtle sort of leadership, leading by example. Jana's kindness and willingness to help others revives Daira's ideals and inspires better actions from most of the men in camp. She becomes as much of a leader as Daira, though each with different strengths. Daira is the sword; Jana is the heart. Together they are a powerful force.
I've always wanted to be a dynamic leader like Daira, but I've come to know that not all leaders have to lead in the same way. Jana is a reflection of my ideal self in the lead-by-example manner. This story is probably dearest to my heart of all of them. I work on it, feel incapable of expressing it, work on other projects, learn more, come back and work on it. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I won't give up on their story. This is the one especially for the girl I was many years ago and all other girls like her.