Uh… so you can tell I’m kinda excited about this, yes? I had the chance to meet Shannon this past June in NYC and it was definitely a highlight of my trip. When I found out she was going to be there, and Joy had her on our schedule, and then found out I’d be arriving later and would miss her I sent Joy numerous emails in all caps with lots of punctuation asking for a re-schedule. Which actually didn’t work out either because of the hotel+NYPD fiasco… but everything else and goodness prevailed because we got to hang out with her twice. Whee!
On Blood and Fire
I’m so excited about this one. It’s very dear to my heart, since it was a book that took me completely by surprise. Bruno just sprang out of nowhere in the first chapter of Fade to Midnight. At first, I didn’t consider him as a hero. He didn’t behave like a classic McKenna hero. He talked too much, he was too bouncy, he was a clown, he was hot tempered, on a hair- trigger, etc. etc. The kind of guy who would be a good foil for a studly and stoic McKenna hero. Like, say, Kev.
But when I was done with Kev’s book, and everything was all sewed up, Bruno swaggered on up, and cockily demanded his own story. He was cute enough for hero material, he assured me. He had the muscles, the dimples, the brains, the charisma, the sexual ability. He could kick ass as well as any flipping McCloud. Hell, he was a direct descendant of one of the biggest Italian mafia crime clans on the eastern seaboard, even though he was raised by tight-assed old Uncle Tony, who went straight decades before. Bruno wanted to flatten his own bad guys, damn it. He wanted to prove himself. He wanted his own sexy heroine, his own happily ever after.
Give it to me now. That’s what he said. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. And Blood and Fire came into being.
I’m only half kidding. I am grateful to be bullied by my characters about all the gritty details, the timelines, the plot points. It’s that much less agonizing decision making that I have to engage in! Bruno made the hard decisions before I even started writing. All I had to do was take what he gave me, and build a book with it.
The heart of the story is a memory of Bruno’s recounted in Fade to Midnight. Bruno is in the hospital, staring down at Kev’s unconscious body. He remembers when he was twelve, right after he’d come to live with gruff old Uncle Tony at the diner in Portland, right after his mother’s violent death at the hands of her boyfriend Rudy, the ruthless mafia goon. Rudy and two of his thugs had come to the diner while Bruno was there with Kev, ostensibly to kidnap and silence Bruno before he could testify at Rudy’s trial. But when Bruno is attacked, the speechless and brain damaged and apparently harmless Kev suddenly transformed into a crazy fighting machine. He flattens the three bad guys in seconds, whap, bam, saving Bruno’s life, and earning his devotion forever. And then there was that bit about Rudy ripping Bruno’s mother’s gold necklace, his last keepsake of her, off his throat. What was that about? I didn’t have a clue. I just wrote the thing. Whatever.
I almost cut that scene, because I was so shockingly over word count at the time for Fade to Midnight. It was fully twice as long as the manuscript was supposed to be. I was madly cutting everything that did not obviously advance the plot. And this did not. It revealed character, of course, but not a principle character. It was advancing the plot of another book! Bruno’s book!
That was the seed that took root and grew into Bruno’s story. It went all these crazy places that I never expected before it was through. To the end of writing it, I continued to be surprised as hell by the things that were happening. It was fun. When it wasn’t hell on earth. Oh, shut up, Shannon. I promised myself I would not whine about how hard and scary writing is. Nobody wants to hear it. Besides, I did this to myself, by deciding not to become a librarian or a computer programmer or a teacher. I made my bed, now I’ll just type in it.
Another good thing about Blood and Fire is that it gave me an opportunity to finish something important that I had begun in Fade to Midnight–the reunion of Kev with is long-lost brothers. A scene fraught with danger. All that pent up emotion, grief and anger and guilt. A minefield, and in FADE TO MIDNIGHT, there was no time or space to either let the bombs explode or carefully defuse them, one by one. The characters were too busy getting blown up and shot at and torched and shot up with needles full of junk or assailed by mind-controlling zombie masters. Stuff like that. No down time for involved, emotionally charged conversations, explanations, ‘issues.’ It was very painful, leaving those beloved McCloud boys like that, all in limbo with each other, still as tense and confused as hell and tied in knots by their unresolved feelings. I considered writing the scene that would resolve it, and then I abandoned the idea. Too easy, I thought. Too soon. Not those guys. They’re not like that. They’re armored with titanium, emotionally speaking. They’re rigidly controlled, they’re tragically, terminally macho. I make no apologies for them. They’re just plain difficult. Ask any of their heroines. Raised and homeschooled in the deep wilderness by a paranoid schizophrenic nutcase survivalist sniper whose mottos were “lack of vigilance will get you killed” and “do the hard thing.” That big tender moment was just going to have to wait. I wouldn’t write it until I felt it. Because I know these guys.
But I cannot even tell you how much flak I caught for that decision! Most of the readers who reviewed or wrote me were just perplexed and disappointed that I left those big issues unresolved, but many others were genuinely angry and felt cheated. I felt bad that they felt bad, but I also chose to take the intensity as a kind of back-handed compliment (might as well, don’t you think?) If a reader cares enough to actually get mad at me for not doing right by a character that she cares about, a character who she believes deserves better, then I am definitely doing something right. Not everything, maybe . . . but something!
But I will announce to you right now that in Blood and Fire, they get their moment! And it is so quintessentially McCloud. Right down to the pouring rain, the open grave, the mud, the ice, the moldering skeletons . . . and I’ll stop it right now. Don’t want to spoil.
So to all of you who were left feeling unsatisfied, it was not for lack of caring about the characters on my part! Far from it. It’s because I care too much to railroad them into something important before it could happen naturally, in a way that I could believe in.
I really get excited when the story jerks me around and has its way with me—is that kinky? Should I worry? Oh, never mind. Forget I asked.
Anyhow, I’m blathering on, because Lime indulgently did not impose a word count, which is a dangerous thing to do with me! So I’ll close this with another resounding “thank you” to Lime for sharing space on her lovely blog for my rambling discourse, and to any of you who are kind enough to read this. I hope you enjoy Blood and Fire if it finds its way into your hands.
Happy reading to all this fall—I hope everyone gets lucky with lots of delicious books, and I wish you all scads of the endless enjoyments and riches that only books can bring.
Because Shannon lives overseas, shipping would be a nightmare – but don’t you worry! I’ve coordinated with the terrific Kensington offices, and we’re going to have three lucky winners! Up for grabs are two copies of Fade to Midnight and one lucky person will get the upcoming release Blood and Fire. Let me tell you, I’m crazy jealous. I didn’t get a Blood and Fire ARC in NYC. And I didn’t bother hunting one down because I only read digitally now, but if I had gotten on there I could have gotten it signed! By Shannon! Ahhh. Anyway, Blood and Fire will be out and about on September 27, 2011. You needed to know that. [Oh and yes I know other than the first two the book covers aren’t at all in order of publication. But that’s how I wanted them.]