When I initially sat down and started writing Awakened, I didn't intend to begin writing a book. I was writing a scene as an exercise to get my creative juices flowing, and I was so excited by how it turned out that I kept writing, and Caleb was born. Early on, he is based loosely on me and my life because I also moved from a small, conservative town to San Diego for college, and we are both gay. After that, we start to differ pretty wildly. The physical appearance of Caleb is based on a model/actor who appeared in a music video as the "Big Bad Wolf."
When I was writing, the essential thing I wanted to communicate about Caleb was that he knew who he was, or at least he thought he did at the beginning of the story. He was comfortable in his skin and was accepted by his friends and family. I wanted him to be a gay main character who just happened to be gay, rather than a gay main character who struggled with whether or not to come out and what people would think. It's not that I don't think those stories are valuable, but I felt like they had been done by other authors, probably better than I could, so I didn't want to attempt to reinvent the literary wheel, so to speak.
When the action and drama began in the story, and Caleb's life was thrown into disarray, I wanted that to mirror the coming of age process that all of us experience at some point or another in our lives. Some of us, more than once! He knew who he was and was comfortable with that, and then all of a sudden, something changed, and he had to figure out how to live with the new information he'd been given.
In the beginning, I wanted Awakened to be a metaphor for the "Coming Out" process, but as I was writing, I realized that his was a much broader and more widely experienced situation than just coming out. Once I realized that the story continued from that new perspective. As the story progresses and more information about other characters is revealed, it becomes clear that Caleb is trying to find his place in this new world he didn't know existed and has to learn new customs and expectations and become re-socialized. This kind of thing happens when moving from childhood into adulthood, going off to college, starting your first job, moving to a new place, etc. Facing this type of change and adaptation is an almost universal experience, and I hope that Caleb handled it in a way that felt genuine and grounded in reality.
After writing pretty solidly for a few months, I moved to a new state and began a new job, so the story took a back seat, and I didn't write for quite a long time. By the time I came back to it, and bad things began to happen to him, Caleb had become his own person in my mind, and the process of writing his story changed from one where I planned and plotted different things out to an experience of almost watching the action in my mind as though it were happening in front of me, and writing as quickly as possible to try to get all the detail down on paper before I forgot what happened. I often felt like an outside observer in Caleb's world, despite the first-person narrative of the books themselves. I was inside his head because I knew what he was thinking, but he also did things that I didn't expect, and that was exciting for me to write because it felt like it was coming from a real person.
One of my favorite things about writing Awakened and Challenged was watching Caleb's transformation from a young boy who is trying to figure out his place in this new world of the Awakened to a young man who is not afraid to speak his mind. He learned to accept the consequences of his actions, however difficult they may be. He loved those close to him and protected them to the best of his ability, but he wasn't perfect, and I think his flaws were some of his best qualities. But then again, I'm biased.