The cover for Solomon Bull should tell you I targeted a different kind of sexy–hence the motorcycle sans Fabio art. Truth is, the only time I thought of the word sexy was when I dropped Rachel into the shower scene… more on that below. But sexy doesn’t necessarily mean sex.
Sexy means: Primally interesting. Burrows into the subconscious. Reflects our good back to us. And some of our choicest bad… The sexy character is the one we want to be, or be with. Were I smarter, better looking, and half Blackfoot, I’d like to think I’d be Solomon Bull. He’s a hero worthy of admiration.
So what makes an attraction real? What takes it out of the arena of hormones crashing the gates, and into the I-want-to-read-about-this-character-forever kind of sexy? Several traits come to mind.
First trait: Optimists are Sexy
Solomon Bull takes on the impossible because he trusts his cleverness and daring. He accepts a challenge that he can’t knock ten points off an evil senator’s reelection campaign lead, and then proceeds through reckless, monkey wrench adventures that only backfire and increase the incumbent’s lead.
Whether successful in his design to bring down the senator, or not, painting a forty foot elephant with an R on the head, that is laying pipe in a forty foot donkey with a D on the head, on the side of the gargantuan Bell Rock, pictured below, is sexy.
And hanging from a rope to create rock porn requires a fundamental sort of optimism. Also sexy.
Second Trait: Sexy Love isn’t about Sex
Solomon isn’t sappy. Not cheesy. Mature love is about thought and understanding, and less about passion. Within the first chapter Solomon becomes aware of thoughtful love—and finds he doesn’t have it. Which forces him away from his newly minted ex girlfriend.
Katrina, who uses real victim-hood as a permanent excuse to avoid responsibility for her life, is worthy of Solomon’s pity, but no longer his love. As the character arc rounds, this exact lesson motivates Solomon to save Amanda, who both stirs his passion and his mind, and the Navajo boy, who is a victim of sexual human trafficking.
Third Trait: Sexy Ancestry
Solomon is half Blackfoot Indian. He spent time as a graduate at Arizona State University, mastering among other things indigenous studies, and he is acutely aware of the irony that a Native American would write about the evils of assimilation for an American university on a Mac computer.
He is especially aware because his father was a murdered activist who, in the sixties and seventies, participated in all of the big AIM uprisings, the takeover of Alcatraz, the takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the shootout that put Leonard Peltier behind bars.
His father’s mission terrified his white mother. She deployed every sinister trick in a mother’s loving arsenal to undermine Solomon’s indigenous identity. Everything.
Solomon struggles to understand himself. He’s studied both the white man’s most revered philosophers, but also Luther Standing Bear and Ponca Chief White Eagle, who he quotes and frequently draws strength from:
When you are in doubt, be still, and wait; when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage. So long as mists envelop you, be still; be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists—as it surely will. Then act with courage.
Fourth Trait: What’s More Sexy than an Extreme Athlete?
Solomon desperately wants to be a true Blackfoot, and after all his studies realizes character is what he does, not what he purports to believe. But how can he do what he wants to do? How can he pick up where his revolutionary father left off? Desert Dog is the litmus test that will tell him whether he’s Wannabe or a Blackfoot.
Fifth Trait: A crap ton of crazy adventures, sexy characters, pursuits
Solomon’s external struggles are the fun ones. I might have had more fun fleshing out Rachel than Solomon.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I did.
I remember having Solomon return home from a training run, and I hadn’t mapped out much of the actual story yet. I needed something interesting to happen. So while Solomon washes his hair with his eyes closed, he hears the curtain rods slide, feels the cool air, and is introduced to Rachel when he realizes her breast is more “determined” than the pair he remembers attached to his ex’s ribs.
Rachel’s a gorgeous ninja: “some alchemist mixed an anime girl with oxygen and lightning.” She’s always turning up to recruit Solomon into service of the US Treasury’s secret TFI agency, while trying to seduce him. TFI is real, by the way, and what could be more sexy than an anime TFI girl?
The challenge for Solomon is obvious. Not only does he have to resist a seductive beauty, but her recruitment for the US government’s Treasury brings to head his deepest conflict: his father died fighting the US Government. Now the US Government wants him to declare sides, fully assimilate, and defend The Machine. The US Government wants Solomon Bull to be Solomon Mule.
Last of the crazy adventures, Solomon learns while bringing down the corrupt Senator Cyman that his evil is far beyond table-stakes political corruption. He’s a rapist and pedophile. Very un-sexy. Interestingly, I wrote the drafts of Solomon Bull long before Pizzagate, but it’s kind of remarkable how close I was to the mark. Turns out, like we knew all along, sick bastards are everywhere, maybe especially in government.
Final Trait: Smart is Sexy.
One other thing makes me want to be Solomon Bull. He’s way smarter than I am.
I didn’t dumb him down. An ARC reader suggested to me that the average reader’s understanding level is eighth grade, but I wrote like I swallowed a dictionary. I think that’s a bit generous. My vocabulary is below average. But I’ve paid attention the last thirty years, not a mile wide, but a mile deep, and I had a lot of fun tapping some of that esoterica, letting Solomon go to town and be himself. Some of his humor is frankly un-gettable. But most is accessible. The humor is structured so when you don’t get it, you won’t know you missed it. But when you’re in, you’ll know.
And tell me that ain’t sexy.
What do you think? Who was the sexiest literary character you ever read, and what character attributes made it so?
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