Originally, there was not going to be a Tishla. I had envisioned three novellas preceding each novel in The Amargosa Trilogy. The Magic Root and The Marilynists are the two before The Children of Amargosa. Gimme Shelter, which started out as the first ten chapters of Children is the third. Tishla, like Kai and Laral Jorl, were supposed to be throwaway characters, a brief glimpse into what made these invading aliens tick. But my editor, Stacy Robinson, really fell in love with Tishla. On top of that, on Game of Thrones, Daenerys Stormborn’s storyline had begun to really heat-up at the time we were combining The Magic Root and The Marilynists into one novella. (I’ve since done away with that based on reader feedback.) The idea of a tough, deceptively beautiful girl rising up to take her place with giants in interstellar politics intrigued me. So in some ways, Tishla is Dani’s spiritual sister.
But I also did not want the Gelt to become like the Klingons before the Star Trek movies or Next Generation. They needed a culture. They needed an explanation. And Tishla was the best way to show that. She knows what their ideals are, and knows they fall down. The Sovereign offers her a chance to become both an adviser and a mistress with his own consort in earshot, something she wisely turns down. She has been among humans and knows how they think. So she knows how to appeal to both sides.
She has one disturbing tendency. At the beginning of Tishla, she offers herself up for execution if the humans decide they want all the Gelt off her planet. Luckily, they pass (or Tishla would only be about ten pages long. Sorry, but this is not a spoiler.) She later offers her own life again on more than one occasion, causing one in her inner circle to point out that, for someone upon whom both species depend on for survival on distant Hanar, she throws away her life rather casually.
Tishla is hardly a messianic figure. For starters, she became a concubine for her childhood friend so he would pay for her honors (kind of like a college degree) in genetics. It’s a mutual burden neither minds bearing. But she expected to be parted from her friend when her term of indenture ended. She would have her career, and he would go off and do whatever nobles did. Obviously, that doesn’t workout, and this humble servant girl finds herself at the center of an interstellar war.
It was her pregnancy in The Magic Root that convinced me to write Tishla. It’s the basis for her becoming free, becoming Kai’s wife (if only through his death), and becoming something both human and Gelt can rally around when the two big powers in the galaxy abandon them. She is, like any leader, lonely on her unwanted throne, but she also has a mother’s rage when her children are threatened.
And that’s a dynamic we don’t often see in speculative fiction. An enraged mother could be far more dangerous than a megalomaniac with a military propping him up. Against that kind of determination, Hitler would never have stood a chance.