I’ve described Tribus Dulce as urban fantasy and a low key super hero novel. What’s interesting regarding this novel is the fact that it almost didn’t exist, certainly not in this form. The book has been out for something to the tune of a year, so I think it’s time I share a bit more behind the scenes trivia.
Tribus Dulce was almost a very different book originally, and was almost three different books. The protagonists Darian and Kashaya were originally closer in age and a couple. Darian was considerably less the responsible type and fit the mold a bit more of an angsty anime character. Initially Kashiya had been written as something of an often annoyed love interest consistently trying to make Darian make better life choices. That book lasted about three sentences and I grew utterly bored and cast it to the winds to take the form it has now.
The Abra and Judy dynamic was always something planned, but I don’t think I settled on their names necessarily until a trip to an art museum in Phoenix. There I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of religious paintings and amongst them was a favorite of mine, the Ballad of Abra and Judith. The historic text itself is considered apocrypha by some Christian sects and deuterocanonical by others. There’s not really a reason I’m aware of to consider it apocrypha; the narrative found doesn’t contradict anything of any magnitude in the established text.
Regardless, I’ve always loved the story of those two, and I also love writing close platonic friendships and shifting power dynamics. The idea of Abra and Judy in Tribus Dulce was partly inspired by the Biblical Abra and Judith, as well as the idea of wanting to write one girl who was a heroic figure with a flawed world view, and another with hidden depths of great magnitude.
Abra is interesting to me, because she is a very sympathetic character and one easily endeared to, but I think there’s a side of her that doesn’t immediately leap out to readers. For as loving and caring as she is towards Judy, her friend, and Nasir, her younger brother, one side of her that isn’t fully developed (as in development growth, not a lack of development in the novel) or rather was not given the opportunity to fully grow is a certain lack of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence relates to one’s capacity to comprehend and properly assess and interact with another’s emotional state of being. Abra herself survives her abusive home life and apathetic school faculty by employing a certain degree of measured emotional distance. To that end, it’s no small wonder she’s unable to see for much of the book, in spite of years of friendship, how deeply Judy loves and cares for her.
Abra I believe is a case that extends beyond low self-esteem; to be a human who has grown up violently abused by the very figure that is meant to protect you the most drastically skewed and shattered her view of the words “love” and “relationship”. It’s no small wonder she doesn’t believe anyone is capable of loving her, especially not someone she loves. It should be wholly unnecessary to state, but I’ll clarify that in this context I’m specifically dealing with the damage to her perception of platonic love. We’ll deal with romantic love in a moment.
With Judy, Abra is unable to conceive of Judy’s platonic love for her. Her deepest bond of platonic love, that of parent to child, is in ruins. Her father beats her and her mother allows it to happen. To that end she believes herself wholly incapable of receiving platonic love and struggles even for a good portion of the novel to comprehend and accept that Judy truly loves her as she does. I believe a measure of fear of what form that love would take is at work here as well; if your primary bond is one of abuse, how then could she believe the relationship with Judy wouldn’t become abusive also?
Yet, as my novels are about overcoming trauma, tragedy and angst, Abra does see her way to being capable of accepting that platonic love and grows stronger for it.
Now, romance. It’s not the core focus of the book, and fittingly is far off from Abra’s radar. Abra loves Paulo from afar, and that love takes on an interesting dynamic. Evidenced in his behavior in Darrian’s narrative we see two sides of Paulo. Paulo is a young man drowning in the acrid acidity of toxic masculinity and toxic racial expectations, so we do see he has a flippant and callous side. We also see him to be fiercely loyal and protective, loving Darrian as a younger brother and guiding him as such, and in some ways almost parenting his friend. And, his protective streak for his younger sister Kashiya goes without saying.
In Kashiya’s narrative we see a side of him that presumably even best friend Darrian doesn’t. We see a more sensitive and caring side, and this is a side I think it’s safe to assume that the ever observant and intelligent Abra has grasped and perhaps even glimpsed also.
Of course, reasonably so, Abra has a fear at the idea of romance. Her mother married an abusive man, her father is an abusive man, and though she rationally understands her little brother is terrified to act, he is still another example in her life of action through inaction. We see Abra afraid of this concept of romance as much as she longs for it, but we also see a great capacity for depth and understanding in that she comprehends that in spite of her fears and traumas, not all men are the same as her father and that to hold all men accountable for the actions of one or even some is asinine.
I won’t reveal how that romantic dynamic plays out for Abra, and will suffice to say I am not in the business of weaving tragic, depressing stories that exist to say “Life sucks, then you die”. I am in the business of crafting narratives that explore the human condition and depths of our struggles, and provide an avenue for growth, healing and reconciliation. And badass fight scenes.
Regarding Judy, she’s also a favorite of mine. I love characters and individuals that fly in the face of vocal conformity and expectations. It’s one of the reasons I adore characters like Captain Awesome from Chuck and why I enjoy actors like The Rock who portray a certain physical stereotype while flying in the face of its convention, I.E. the nice, dorky jock with a heart of gold.
Judy is a phenomenal character that we see through Abra’s eyes, and one that I’m loving exploring more in solo novel series Abra and Judith. This series stars the two girls and follows their exploits in full length novels aside from the team up Tribus Dulce novels. This is as good a time as any to clarify that the Tribus Dulce series should be considered the annual “super hero team up” while separate novels such as the Abra and Judith series and the Ochre Alleycat series will follow these protagonists on their separate adventures along the way. While I won’t hold any comparisons to a certain cinematic universe against you, I would like to point out I’ve been in love with the concept of writing a connected universe since I first began penning literary works around five or so years of age 😊
Judy is someone we see from Abra’s perspective in Tribus Dulce. We see Abra even after years of friendship making mistakes regarding the intent of Judy’s motivations, as is plausible for her home life, but we also see constantly a girl who is incredibly patient, loving and loyal. Something worth noting is that Abra makes mention of Judy’s “WOOO Girl” friends, but the narrative shows Judy forsaking essentially all forms of social interaction to care for her friend, for her taken sister, throughout the story. We also see moments of Judy’s vast intelligence and depth of character, as well as a picture into her own unhappy home life.
The solo novel Abra and Judith will begin with something of a retelling of Abra’s last chapter in Tribus Dulce, this time allowing us to see those events unfolding from Judith’s perspective. I think readers will be delighted to gain deeper insight into Judy’s psyche and motivations, as well as a deeper understanding of how her powers work and when they first manifested.
There’ll be more on Judy in the next Tribus Dulce universe writeup, as well as articles on each of the other feature characters leading up to the debut of Ochre Alleycat, a novel starring a new protagonist that runs parallel to Tribus Dulce, a new protagonist deeply affected by the actions our heroes took at that time. In the meantime, be sure to pick up Tribus Dulce if you haven’t already; if you want a different take on low-key urban super hero narratives, or want to see young heroes overcoming and healing from traumas ranging from domestic abuse to toxic masculinity and more, this is the book for you!
-Eugene the Author