A lot of thought went into crafting the protagonist of my post-apocalyptic dystopian novel Dominion of the Damned. To survive this brave new world in which zombies ravage and vampires rule the remnants of humanity, I needed someone who was strong enough and courageous enough to survive the plague and stand up to her vampire overlords while still being entirely, relatably, vulnerably human. I needed a survivor who was both intelligent and practical-minded, yet young enough to not quite have her identity be fully nailed down and to be very confused and conflicted about her feelings — and also young enough to have parents who aren’t yet out of their childbearing years.
Meet Hannah Jordan. A country girl, the product of rural America, raised and trained by a survivalist father and a mother who emphasized a more traditional education, she was a nursing student who had her life all mapped out, happily anticipating the birth of her new baby brother when a worldwide zombie outbreak dashed her dreams and took her parents, leaving her as the sole guardian of the newborn, determined to protect him at all costs.
As adept at fighting and shooting as she is at stitching up wounds and comforting the sick and injured, Hannah is less confident when it comes to stepping into her mother’s shoes and caring for the infant. Yet it’s her love for her brother that drives her to brave a world that’s left them both at the bottom of the food chain, confronting monsters when she’d just as soon curl up and hide. She has as much common sense as she does book sense, but that doesn’t keep her from second guessing herself. She’s slow to trust and quick to assume the worst, but she’s loyal to a fault to those who earn her trust.
When it came to casting Hannah, at least in my own imagination, I wanted someone who could convey that mix of strength, intelligence, innocence and vulnerability. Maybe it’s because I was watching a lot of Firefly and also heavily invested in The Sarah Connor Chronicles at the time I wrote my first draft, but Summer Glau is who I’ve always envisioned, despite the fact that, really, she’s quite a bit more petite than Hannah is described as being. One thing I didn’t want was for Hannah to fit the cliche of a tiny girl who can inexplicably kick monster butt. Hannah is neither a cyborg nor has she been genetically enhanced, which is why not only is she not described as tiny, but also relies more on guns than on her fists and feet.
Even so, it was Summer Glau’s face and mannerisms that helped to shape Hannah, and this is who I continue to see years later as I read through the book in preparation to write the sequel. I’m not sure there’s anyone else more suitable who could take her place. But if you’ve read Dominion, I’d love to hear your ideas for casting Hannah in the comments!