Ayla’s title, actually her job description, Speaker for the Dead comes from the tv show Homicide: Life on the Street based on the non fiction book by David Simon.
Simon went on to later create The Wire and Treme (which also has a connection with us as it told the story of New Orleans after Katrina). Andre Braugher as Detective Frank Pembleton is talking to his partner Tim Bayliss played by Kyle Secor about a murder and tells him that he speaks for those that can no longer speak for themselves, those that have been murdered. His job is to give them a voice. (Now this is how I remember it but it’s been years since I watched this show and my memory may not be 100%.) Those words always stuck with me. Even when I first heard them they made me think about a character based around those words.
Now for Ayla I’ve taken those words and stretched the concept some. Ayla doesn’t just speak for any person murdered. She speaks for those that the system ignores or gives a half hearted effort in investigating. Her job is to be their voice and make sure they receive justice.
I had the concept before I had anything else. The setting came next. I live in New Orleans. Ok, maybe not in the city itself, but just across the lake from it. When anyone asks me where I’m from I tell them New Orleans. I love this city. So I definitely wanted to set it in New Orleans. Since there is no job called Speaker for the Dead now it was going to have to be set in the future.
After this part was worked out I started working out the character herself. Some reason I knew the character was female. I just saw a woman’s face when I thought of who this Speaker of the Dead was. And Ayla was born.