An Amazon review of “Steampunk Trails 1″ by Randy Stafford of “Vine Voice” contains probably the best feedback I have ever received about Midnight Jay. it states “Midnight Jay gently guides her husband, a “genius” inventor, corrects his mistakes, and urges him on in his battle against Silas Monstrosity.”
While I’m sure I was writing with this intent in mind, it was the response from the critic which brought home the idea that Midnight Jay is the true main character of this series. Yep, ignore that The Scarlet Derby gets main billing, and sole billing in the domain. (although midnightjay.com does serve as a redirect.) The lady in the frilled dress and feathered mask is the most central character that the audience most views the action from.
In personality, and slightly on appearance, she is based on one of my high-school English teachers. Ms. Dalzell was a very intelligent woman, with a strong wit and a powerful sense of self. She could joke with you in one sentence and pummel you with the second until you were speechless. She also was one of the first people to encourage my fiction writing, and also the first to notice the “campy” nature of my writing. “Camp” being one of the notes I often try to hit with this series.
A lot of Midnight Jay’s heroic traits come from one of the first panels I ever attended at AnomalyCon: a demonstration of bartitsu by author Terry Kroening. The art of bartitsu focuses on the use of Victorian-era implements such as capes, walking sticks, and umbrellas, in order to quickly subdue an attacker for purposes of self defense. The “umbrella” part of the demo really stuck with me, and that is why it is The Jay’s lone weapon. I always give Terry due credit in giving The Jay her martial arts discipline, as her master has the slant anagram name of “Master Crane of Teh Ra Ning.” See what I did there?
The Jay is the opposite of the Derby in her heroic discipline. While the Derby likes to use deductive reasoning, seat-of-your-pants tactics, and quite a few gadgets and potions, The Jay uses her inner strength, various martial arts disciplines, and sheer force of will in order to solve problems. They compliment one another perfectly while still completely failing to understand one-another’s tactics.
Her first name is “Mary Jane,” which I’d ultimately shortened to just “Mary” in the “Steampunk Trails” story. I had named her after a certain well known female supporting character in a popular comic, but I was afraid she’d be compared with, well, a certain current point of modern social debate. Ultimately, she insisted, and I re-instated her full name. Even though she’s taken Thaddeus’ last name, her own maiden name, “Preston” is vastly more well known to the London community. She’s the heiress to the third largest fortune in all of London, and she’s frequently the target of villains herself for that reason. Woe be to the the villain who makes a bid to kidnap or extort her, though.